Ervin Santana Still Needs a Team

Ervin Santana‘s usefulness as a fantasy pitching option looked to be coming to an end after his disastrous 2012 season. He was traded to the Royals where he thrived for one season. He may be able to each up the magic 2014, but a lot will be determined by which team signs him.

The big issue for Santana in 2012 was his league leading 2.0 HR/9 fulled by a 19% HR/FB (among qualified starters).

Going into the 2013 season, his home run rates were due for some regression.  I was worried they would still be above his career values because of a greater than 1 MPH drop in his fastball velocity (92.8 to 91.7) from 2011 to 2012.

The decline was worse when just looking at the season’s 2nd half. When the 2013 started, his velocity was still down, but within a half dozen starts it was back to around 93 mph. One quick easy item to track for Santana’s 2014 success is if he can keep his velocity in the 92 mph to 93 mph range.

Additionally in 2013, he added a sinker to his pitch mix.

The extra pitch really helped him decrease the number of flyballs (down 4.4%) and increase groundballs (up 3%). The change dropped his HR/9 from 2.0 to 1.1 and his his HR/FB% from 18.9% to 12.4%. A second item to track is if he continues with the sinkerball with his 2014 team.

Neither of these two compare to the final piece to Santana’s turn around: playing for Kansas City. First, the Royals home park suppresses home runs. For a flyball pitcher like Santana, this is a huge help. Second, Santana played behind the league best defense according to UZR. The defense helped out all their pitchers so their average ERA-FIP (-0.38) was the league’s 2nd best.

While Santana’s career ERA (4.19) is lower than his FIP (4.36), the Royals defense helped the value reach -0.69. Also the defense helped him post a 5-year low WHIP value (1.14)

For 2014, I expect the 31-year-old’s to have a 6.75 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. The biggest key will be which team eventually signs him. Will he go to the NL where he gets to face pitchers? Will the park by spacious enough to keep his flyballs from turning into home runs? Will the team’s defense help to suppress his ERA and WHIP? Will the team’s offense help out his win total?

Rotographs end-of-year fantasy starting pitcher rankings put Ervin Santana as the 33rd top rated pitcher. In 12-team leagues, he ended up being someone’s #3 starter. I would bet this ranking is close to his maximum 2014 value (he could get a few more Wins). I just don’t see his rate stats or his strikeouts improving, only going down. His final value is really going to come down to which team eventually signs him.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

6 Responses to “Ervin Santana Still Needs a Team”

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  1. FeslenR says:

    Even if Ervin moves to a pitcher’s park, I am highly skeptical of another season like he had in 2013.

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    • "syas RnelseF says:

      .3102 ni dah eh ekil nosaes rehtona fo lacitpeks ylhgih ma I ,krap s’rehctip a ot sevom nivrE fi nevE

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    • Sean says:

      If you look at his last four seasons, 2013 is fairly consistent with 2010/2011, and 2012 actually looks like the outlier. If the sinker is a legitimate way to limit the fly balls to some extent, it helps solve his biggest problem. The 2.5 BB/9 projection is optimistic though, and he’s probably not a guy to feel overjoyed about owning.

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  2. Steve-O says:

    Do thank the 5th grader that wrote this, and the 6th grader who edited it.

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