One of the Mets’ perceived strengths heading into the 2013 season is the makeup and depth of their rotation.

With the Mets expected to get consistent, reliable seasons from the likes of R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey, the health and reliability of Johan Santana could be the major wild card for success for the Mets next year.

So what can we expect from Santana in 2013? How many innings and starts can we depend on from Santana?

After overcoming major shoulder surgery in 2010 and missing all of the 2011 season, Santana was sight for sore eyes at the beginning of the 2012 season. Santana stormed out of the gate and was an anchor in the Mets’ rotation for the first three months or so. Of course, Santana’s season was undeniably defined by him throwing the Mets’ first ever no-hitter, which is a memory that Mets’ fan will cherish forever. To say that Santana was a feel good story in the early going would be a massive understatement. From April to early June, Santana was the story in Queens; even Dickey was living in his shadow.

Santana was pitching at an all-star level and after he tossed his magical no-hitter on June 1, he sported a 3-2 record with a 2.38 ERA. After a hiccup against the Yankees in his next start, in which he gave up six earned runs in five innings, Santana rebounded to post three wins out of his next four starts while allowing only six earned runs in 25 innings.

Santana’s July 6 start against the Chicago Cubs was when the wheels started to come off. It was then he injured his ankle and he was-simply put-never the same. Including that start against the Cubs, Santana would lose his next three starts (not lasting past the fifth inning in any start) while allowing 19 earned runs in 12.2 innings pitched.

The Mets would then put Santana on the DL after his July 20 start to get some rest for his ankle and his extended pitching workload. However, the time off did not make a difference, as Santana would only make two more starts after being activated off the DL on August 11. After his return Santana was decisively worse, pitching only 6.1 innings in those two starts and allowing a staggering 14 earned runs on 15 hits. To compound matters, Santana was experiencing some lower back inflammation upon his return from the ankle injury.

At this point the Mets had no other choice but to shelve Santana for the rest of the year. Considering that the Mets were in no position for a playoff berth, the Mets wanted to err on the side of caution and have him (hopefully) fully healthy for the 2013 season.

In what was a promising start, Santana’s final stat lines were rather ugly, as he was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA.

After so many questions surrounding the health of his surgically repaired shoulder, Santana actually looked healthy for most of the season prior to the ankle injury. Of course many will point out the astounding pitch total (134) that Santana had to work through to achieve the first ever Mets’ no-hitter, but ultimately Santana broke down due to the ankle injury.

The likely cause, though, for Santana’s ultimate downfall was the combination of his increasing workload and both his ankle and back injuries. Santana simply ran out of gas in August. And that’s perfectly normal and acceptable.

But for the Mets to achieve any sort of marked turnaround in 2013, Santana has to give the Mets more than the 117 innings he gave them in 2012. It would be great if the Mets could get 150-plus innings from Santana this coming year. Now that the Mets have some depth at pitcher and could also call up Zack Wheeler at some point next season, they can be careful with the workload they assign Santana. As perhaps the Mets’ fourth starter, anything Santana gives the Mets next year will be gravy and if he can give the Mets 150-plus innings and close to 30 starts, the Mets could be put in a position to succeed.

Santana is signed through the 2013 season (with a team option for 2014) and if Santana pitches well the Mets could also explore avenues in possibly trading him as well.

So, if the Mets can get some solid innings out of Santana, the fortunes of the Mets’ 2013 season could turn around real quick. If Santana is simply worn out and is the pitcher he appeared to be at the end of the 2012 season, it could be another season of status quo in Queens.

That is why the health of Santana is of paramount importance heading into the 2013 season.

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13 comments on “Just how important is the health of Johan Santana for Mets’ success in 2013?

  • Peter Hyatt

    I know that he is a fan favorite but I am hoping we are able to move him for a prospect…even a OF prospect, and may have to eat some of his salary: to a team who feels are just one pitcher away…

    It is a long shot but hey, this is dreaming time for fans not vested in the post season.

    • Willis

      He’d have to pitch soooooo well.

      But to answer the question: The Mets can’t rely on Santana for anything next year. He’s basically keeping the spot warm for Wheeler. The first sentence changes if the Mets trade Dickey, Niese or Gee, but the second one stays the same.

  • David Groveman

    If Santana is healthy… I’m trading him ASAP.

  • Brian Joura

    I have no idea how you would check this – but what’s the record for most money owed a pitcher in the final year of his contract who got dealt to another team?

    • Chris Walendin

      I don’t know how to check in any sort of definitive way, but if I had to bet, I’d say that it was Carlos Zambrano last year. The Cubs still owed him $18M for 2012, and since waiving his 2013 vesting option was a term of the trade that sent him to Miami, 2012 represented the final year of his contract. FWIW, the Cubs ate $15.45M of that.

      • Brian Joura

        Thanks Chris – so that’s about 86% of the contract. Always good to have a baseline

  • Chris F

    It would be interesting to see if JS could muster interest. As Name (and Dan here) has regularly pointed out, the actual performance slide came after the ankle incident with Reed Johnson. And ankles are finicky things. Put that with the shoulder, and its hard to believe a lot of suitors are out there. Id trade him in a flash for practically anything, and eat the big chunk of salary as expected. He is a lefty and did throw a no (one) hitter last year! If he stays, then I think he’s good for 20-22 starts, 120-140 innings at most, probably closer to 120. Im not expecting much.

  • Name

    Yes. Thank you Brian for showing people that it was NOT the no-hitter for the main cause of his problems like many people think. It was freaking stinking Reed Johnson who crushed our season. That ankle injury was the beginning of the end for the Mets and absolutely deflated them. The first second i saw that injury i thought he was coming out for sure, but idiotically, they decided to pitch 12 more innings before shutting him down. Who knows what the team could have done if this had been avoided.

    People have to realize that this guy aint gonna get traded before the season starts. I know this is the era of prospect-mania, but if we have to eat 25+ million dollars, that prospect that we would most likely get isn’t worth it. And like Chris said, who is going to take a chance on this guy the way he finished his season? Hopefully, he will be able to give us a solid season next year and help the Mets compete longer next year, and if we get lucky enough to make the playoffs, a rotation of Santana,Dickey,Niese, and Harvey could be very dangerous.

  • NormE

    Is there any past behavior on the part of the Mets which would lead us to believe that they would be willing to eat a substantial part of Santana’s salary?

    • Name

      Does it really matter what GM X did in year Y? I think we just have to look at it terms of what we know right now. It doesn’t make sense to eat 20-25 million dollars for a B-level prospect. You’d have to ask other teams fans, but i’m sure they would be very scared of acquiring Santana considering how his season ended.

      Our best bet is to hope for the best in Santana in the 1st half. If they are out of contention, then try to dump salary or eat salary and get a low-level prospect. If they are in contention, then hopefully he will provide us good value for the 2nd half.

    • Chris Walendin

      When they traded Carlos Beltran in July of 2011, they ate more than 60% of his remaining salary. When they traded Francisco Rodriguez a few weeks earlier they ate 70% of the money left on his deal. When they released Oliver Perez & Luis Castillo prior to the start of that season they ate all $18M remaining on their contracts.

      • NormE

        Thanks, Chris. I should have known that you would have the answer.

  • Chris F

    So, as excited as I am about hot stove, realism tells me not to expect much out of team sandy. Sure, I’m happy about figuring a way to get Bay out, and deferring some salary to help for this coming season. I hope it’s not more than 5 years of commitment though.

    Anyway, in my fading enthusiasm for big moves, and spurred on by the new outfield article, I wanted to look a little closer at some big dates in the 2012 season thanks to the magic of I decided to start at Johan’s fateful game against the Cubs, and Reed Johnson. What did I learn? Johan was struggling from the start. He gave up a lead off HR to Johnson in the top of the 1st. By the time Johnson came to the plate with 0 out in top 5, Johan was already at 64 pitches. What about the fateful grounder by Johnson? It was a hard play for sure. Johan did a poor job covering the bag. With his foot/leg obstructing the base, Johnson had nowhere to go. At the moment of the incident, Johan’s foot/ankle already had slid and rolled on top of the base, then Johnson stepped on it. What I took home was a sense that Johan had clearly lost his “stuff” before the ankle. Sure he had only given up 2 runs but the pattern we saw end his season was in place: high pitch counts, little movement, and giving up runs early. It got worse to be sure, but in hindsight, I’m not sure how far the ankle incident went to ending his season. He got back on the hill and was throwing immediately afterward.

    Then I got to thinking I miss chatter on game day and wondered if anyone wanted to occasionally bring back a seminal game in the season and watch and chat about them?


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