Hector Santiago Departs the Windy City, Heads to Disneyland

Well not quite. The Angels front office would likely be a bit annoyed if Hector Santiago visited Disneyland during their home games, rather than show up at Angel Stadium. Two weeks ago, Santiago was part of the three-team trade that sent him from Chicago to Anaheim. Eno Sarris summed up the winners and losers of the deal at that time, but I am going to expand upon the Santiago analysis.

After surprisingly opening the 2012 season as the White Sox closer, having just 5.1 innings of Major League experience, Santiago eventually transitioned into the rotation and made 23 starts this season. Predictably, his fastball velocity fell, as did his strikeout rate, but his surface results were only marginally worse. His walk rate improved, but it was nearly impossible for it not to. Still, it remained far too high, especially considering that he has been a fly ball pitcher throughout his short career. Multi-run homers are much worse than solo shots, trust me.

His SwStk% was below the league average, but a high rate of looking strikes led to an xK% (an updated formula that also incorporates Strike%) of 24.5%, which was well above his actual mark and just below what he posted mostly as a reliever in 2012. Looking strikes, though, aren’t as consistent from year to year as swinging strikes are, but they still clearly are a skill. This would suggest that Santiago’s strikeout rate could improve next season. He certainly needs it to, as his SIERA was a whopping 0.78 runs higher his actual ERA. So better skills could help fight off the luck regression dragons.

That is all of course if he was staying in Chicago. But he isn’t. He’s moving to a much more pitcher friendly environment. Let’s check out the park factors in 2013:

Team Basic 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB
Angels 96 100 95 88 95 100 97 99 100 99 97
White Sox 104 98 98 87 112 102 107 97 102 98 102

As we figured, Angel Stadium suppresses runs, while U.S. Cellular Field inflates offense. Both parks reduce triples totals, while the differences in singles and double factors looks like a wash. The biggest differences come from their effects on two statistics that are quite relevant to Santiago.

First, Angel Stadium reduces home runs. It was actually the eighth worst park for home runs this season. On the other hand, The Cell was the second best park to hit the long ball in. As a fly ball pitcher, Santiago will greatly benefit from the park switch in terms of keeping the ball in the park. Of course, he didn’t have any HR/FB issues this year and actually held a slightly lower mark at home than away. But we couldn’t assume that would continue, so the move is still beneficial.

Second, The Cell actually increases walks. This time, Santiago’s performance did jive with the park factors, as he posted a higher walk rate at home. The Cell was easily the worst place for a pitcher with poor control to pitch, as its park factor was significantly higher than the park that ranked as second worst. Angel Stadium decreases walks and it tied for the third best park in walk suppression.

So the factors the two parks diverge most in are the two areas that Santiago struggles with most. Aside from moving to the National League, there are few, if any, better moves he could have made from a home park perspective. Add in the likelihood of better offensive support and outfield defense behind him, and it’s all positive.

The park and team switch alone is unlikely to be enough to keep his ERA from regressing, but it will ensure that it doesn’t rise that far. With the promise of a higher strikeout rate and hope for better control, there is even some chance he can repeat that mid-3.00 ERA. If not, he should be able to keep his ERA under 4.00 and maintain a bit of mixed league value.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

12 Responses to “Hector Santiago Departs the Windy City, Heads to Disneyland”

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  1. triple_r says:

    The xK% formula only incorporates L/Str, S/Str, and F/Str — no Strike% to be found.

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    • Right next to the word xK% in the post, I included this: (an updated formula that also incorporates Strike%). The updated formula is slightly better, but not enough so that the original one should be invalidated or no longer relied upon.

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  2. me says:

    This might be a dumb question, but how exactly does a ballpark affect a pitcher’s walk total?

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    • RT says:

      Wondering this myself. Outdoor stadiums with harsh weather conditions in very specific months is really the only thing I can think of, which would make sense given LA’s stadium is ranked 3rd for walk suppression.

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    • Zls123 says:

      I have no stats to support this. But my guess is that HR and BB park factors are somewhat correlated. If a pitcher is likelier to give up a HR on a pitch over the plate, it makes sense that he’d be try to keep the ball on the edges, leading to more walks.

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    • I. P. Freely says:

      My guess is that pitchers try to paint corners and avoid grooving a pitch that may travel over a wall vs be caught.

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    • Dr. Mantis Toboggan, MD says:

      Not sure exactly how the park affects a pitcher’s walk total, but I have to wonder if the wind in Chicago could be a factor.

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    • I believe the hitter’s background plays a role as well. I know in the past in some parks players have complained that it’s hard to see well at times given the light and the backdrop. That could affect K and BB rates.

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    • Madman says:

      Foul territory may also play into this; a foul out in Oakland may just be a strike in Boston.

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  3. E. K. says:

    But how will his outfield defense look in Anaheim? Unless they’re planning on putting Pujols at first base frequently, you’ll see Shuck and Hamilton manning the corners, which is at times solid but at times has led to some loldogs results.

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    • Well, can’t be any worse than Viciedo/Eaton/Garcia in Chicago. Eaton’s small sample UZR in CF has been horrific and we know Viciedo ain’t good.

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    • T Dog says:

      Calhoun is going to be in right this year and Hamilton is going to move back to his more natural fit in left. Shuck will be the 4th OF. It’s a tricky comparison but it comes down to something like this… 2014 Hamilton in LF > than 2013 Shuck in LF based on Hamilton’s career numbers. Calhoun has a small sample size so it’s harder to project. My guess is that it equals or slightly exceeds Hamilton’s 2013 in RF.

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