Servin’ Ervin

By MJ Lloyd

Friday night’s Angels victory, their fourth in a row, saw another Albert Pujols home run and a ninth inning rally featuring pinch hits by struggling Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick. All good signs, right? Sure. Perhaps lost in this modest winning streak, though, was another rough outing from Ervin Santana.

Enormously talented and maddeningly inconsistent, Santana is the type of pitcher who gives managers gray hairs and costs General Managers their jobs. Oliver Perez nods in agreement from his beach house. Santana showed what he could be in 2008 throwing 219.0 innings with a 3.49 ERA, 3.30 FIP (fielding independent pitching), 8.79 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9. The strikeout and walk rates were just a tease though as he hasn’t come close to either of those numbers again.

Santana had productive seasons in 2010 and 2011. He pitched over 220.0 innings in each year with sub 4.00 ERAs and around a 7 K/9 and 3 BB/9. But in 2012, the strikeout rate is down and the walk rate is up. While he’s getting more ground balls than ever before in his career (53%), almost a quarter of his fly balls leave the yard. Santana’s 22.8% HR/FB ratio is the worst in the Majors and would be the worst, by far, over the past three or four seasons. More context? Hideki Irabu‘s HR/FB ratio was 22.9% in his last season and he was a round laughing stock.

Yes, it is early and those HR/FB rates will come down. Santana isn’t alone in the 20% range either. James Shields and Clay Buchholz share his pain. In fact, Santana isn’t even alone at the top of the leader board with 13 homers allowed. Colby Lewis shares that honor, remarkably 10 of his were given up away from his home launching pad.

Santana has been better at home than on the road but he’s still going to have to pitch away from the Big A. Friday night in Seattle was another bummer. Santana threw 106 pitches over five innings while walking seven and only striking out three. Erv served up his 13th homer to Justin Smoak in the fifth. Santana was rolling on a bit of a hot streak after not allowing a home run in his previous two starts. He’s now given up a home run in seven of his 10 outing this season. The Angels have to be concerned about Santana’s homer-proneness.

Considering the new front office, I’d be nervous if I was Angels pitching coach, Mike Butcher.