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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