Results tagged ‘ Ben Lindbergh ’
As I walked back to my apartment from dinner Friday night, I noticed that I had a lot of text messages – a rarity as I do not text much – and I realized that Johan Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets.
Though many people know Santana’s exploits in the major leagues – the Cy Young awards, the sub-1 WHIPs – Santana’s path was anything but ordinary. In 1995, the Houston Astros signed Santana out of Venezuela as a center fielder. Due to his arm strength, left-handedness, and perceived inability to become a major league hitter, Santana was soon converted to a pitcher. After finally being granted a visa, Santana was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros, where he put up a 7.93 ERA across nine games (five starts) and 36.1 innings. Promoted to the Short Season A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, Santana made one four-inning start to end the season, allowing just one run and one hit, walking six and striking out five.
To start the 1998 season, Santana was held back in extended spring training, and was sent back to Auburn in June, striking out 88 while walking 21 in 86.1 innings over 15 starts, putting up a 4.36 ERA. At the end of the season, Santana made two appearances for the full season A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. Santana struggled in his two appearances, putting up a 9.45 ERA over 6.2 innings.
In 1999, Santana had his best season pitching for the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, putting up a 4.66 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) over 160.1 innings, striking out 150 and walking 55 in his age-20 season.
After the season, the Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule V draft, and, just two years after losing Bobby Abreu in the 1997 Expansion Draft, the Florida Marlins selected Santana with the second pick of the 1999 Rule V draft. The Marlins then dealt Santana to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp, the first pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.
The Rule V draft is fascinating, as to be eligible for the Rule V draft, a player:
- Is not included on the 40-man roster of the organization holding his contract; and
- Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least four years, if he was signed after his 19th birthday; or
- Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least five years, if he was signed before his 19th birthday.
In short, to hold onto Santana, all the Astros had to do was put him on the 40-man roster. However, to hold onto Santana, the Twins were required to keep Santana on their major league roster for the 2000 entire season, something that is difficult to do when a young player has not played at a level even close to the majors. The Twins, sensing the talent in Santana, kept him on the roster as the entire season as the long man and a spot starter, appearing in 30 games, pitching 86 innings with a 6.49 ERA. In 2001, Santana served in a similar role, pitching 43.2 innings with a much-improved 4.74 ERA before straining his left elbow flexor and missing two months.
In 2002, Santana was to be turned back into a starter and opened the season in the minor leagues for the first time in two years, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 48.2 innings for the AAA Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League before being brought back to Minnesota. Santana started to show his talent, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 start) for the Twins, striking out 137 and walking 49.
In 2003, Santana opened the season as a middle reliever for the Twins, putting up a 1.59 ERA in his first 11 appearances. Santana made a spot start, going five innings against the high-powered offense of the Boston Red Sox, allowing no runs in five innings. After seven more relief appearances with a 6.52 ERA, Santana became a starter for the duration of the season, putting up a sparkling 3.22 ERA across 92.1 innings, putting up an 8-2 record. During the 2003 season, Santana put up a 3.07 ERA across 45 games (18 starts) while striking out 169 batters and walking 47 batters. Despite the seemingly pedestrian statistics (though the 3.07 ERA was good for a 148 ERA+), Santana picked up one fifth-place Cy Young vote.
In 2004, Santana dominated, putting up a 2.61 ERA across 228 innings, striking out 265 with a 20-6 record. Even more amazing was the second half of Santana’s season. After putting up a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts across 123.2 innings, Santana overwhelmed opponents with a 1.21 ERA across 15 starts over 104.1 innings while averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Even more amazing was Santana’s final six starts of the season, all in September. Across 40 innings, Santana allowed only two runs (both earned), while striking out 52. After the season, Santana was awarded the American League Cy Young award.
Over the next three years, Santana established himself as one of the most reliable and dominating pitchers in the major leagues, winning another Cy Young, coming in third place and fifth place one time each. From 2004 through 2007, Santana put up a 70-32 record, striking out 983 while walking 198 and allowing 705 hits. In 2005, Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. In 2006, Santana went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 245 to lead the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive season. Additionally, Santana won the pitching triple crown, leading the American league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. In 2007, Santana seemed to take a step backwards, put up a 3.33 ERA across 219 innings and had his first WHIP higher than 1.000 since 2003.
After the season, the Twins, fearing Santana would leave as a free agent after his contract expired after 2008, looked for a team willing to give up multiple top prospects. Rumors swirled around multiple large-market franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. The Yankees were rumored to be offering a number of packages involving different prospects, including Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Jeffrey Marquez, Ian Kennedy, and Jhonny Nunez. The Red Sox were dangling a number of packages as well, including packages that included a combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and veteran Coco Crisp. The Dodgers were dangling packages involving prospects Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who was viewed as the best pitching prospect at the time.
While the Mets were rumored to be involved, they refused to part with top prospect Fernando Martinez, thereby significantly decreasing the possibility they would acquire the ace. In the end, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers were unable to acquire Santana and it was the dark-horse Mets who acquired Santana for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey.
The Mets, fresh off one of the largest collapses in baseball history (at that point, possibly only eclipsed by the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS and the 1964 Phillies), needed to acquire another arm and make a splash. Without giving up their top prospect, Fernando Martinez (#20 in Baseball America), the Mets were able to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game. In the deal, the Mets paid a high price, as Deolis Guerra (#35 in Baseball America) was fresh off a season in High A St. Lucie as an 18-year old, an age most people are finishing up High School, Carlos Gomez (#52 in Baseball America, after being #60 in the previous year) showed significant upside in his brief trial with the Mets, Humber struggled in AAA after being the #3 overall pick in 2004, and Mulvey showed a lot of promise in AA after being a second round pick in 2006. In short, while the Mets did not give up their top prospect, they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Santana.
In 2008, Santana did not disappoint. Leading the National League with 34 starts, 234.1 innings, and 964 batters faced, Santana put up a 2.53 ERA and capped the season with one of his best starts of the season in the 161st game of the season, a sparkling 117-pitch complete game shutout, allowing three hits and walking three more, striking out nine against the Florida Marlins. Unfortunately, the Mets struggled to complete the season yet again, missing out on the playoffs in the final day. After the season, Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
In 2009, Santana pitched well, putting up a 3.13 ERA across 25 starts before being shut down in late August due to bone chips in his throwing shoulder after the Mets fell out of contention. Santana would return in 2010, putting up a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts across 199 innings before being shut down in September due to an Anterior Capsule Tear. A capsule is a soft tissue envelope that helps to attach to the scapula, humerus, and the head of the bicep. Due to this injury, Santana missed nearly the entire 2011 season, only making two appearances at High A St. Lucie.
In 2012, Santana returned with a vengeance, striking out 68 in 68 innings, and leading the National League with 11 starts and two complete game shutouts, including the no hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history – 8,020 games.
After the game, Santana addressed the Mets, saying, “[t]onight we all made history, that’s all that matters. I give it to you guys, because you guys made it happen.” Santana’s game was amazing for a number of reasons, it was the first time he had fewer than three hits in a complete game and the most pitches he ever threw in one game, with his 134 pitches amounting to nine more than he had ever thrown in a professional baseball game.
By sheer coincidence (or was it?), the next day I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at CitiField where I, along with a number of other baseball fans, had the opportunity to hear a number of baseball writers including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and Ben Lindbergh; BP and SI.com’s Jay Jaffe; and MLB.com’s Corey Schwartz. Additionally, there was a 30-minute question and answer session with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. Alderson opened by discussing Santana’s outing, discussing Manager Terry Collins’ decision to allow Santana to throw 134 pitches despite only recently coming back from shoulder surgery. Alderson, while showing a clear preference for not allowing Santana to throw 134 pitches, commented that “probabilities, mathematics take a back seat to emotion,” showing his support for Collins’ decision.
In the end, Santana’s no hitter, the first in Mets’ history, was something that he will remember for years and so will a great a number of Mets, former teammates, and sports fans. But the best comment is from Johan Santana himself:
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Jose Bautista, or Joey Bats, as he is known on Twitter, has been one of the most dominant players in baseball during the past two years and, if you looked at him just 24 months ago, you would have seen a career replacement-level player with a poor batting average and a sudden spike in home runs. Bautista might be the best example of why you should not give up on a minor leaguer with potential, and why the Rule V draft can be incredibly disruptive to the development of a prospect. But how did Bautista get there?
After not being signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Bautista enrolled at Chipola Junior College in Florida, and performed well enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 19th pick of the 20th round (#599 overall) of the 2000 Rule IV draft as a draft and follow. Signed prior to the 2001 draft, Bautista was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters of the Short Season A New York Penn League, where he showed promise, putting up a 286/364/427 line while primarily playing third base. After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #14 prospect in the Pirates’ system.
For 2002, Bautista played for the awesomely-named Hickory Crawdads of the A-level South Atlantic League, where he put up a 301/402/470 line with 26 doubles and 14 homers (tied for 8th with Robinson Cano and Shelley Duncan) while almost exclusively playing third base. Bautista’s prospect status remained on the rise, as he was ranked the #7 prospect in the Pirates’ system by Baseball America.
Bautista’s 2003 season was a lost season due to a right hand injury (caused by pulling a Kevin Brown and punching a garbage can out of frustration), putting up a 242/359/424 line for the Lynchburg Hillcats of the High-A Carolina League and 348/429/522 in seven rehab games for the Rookie Level GCL Pirates.
After the 2003 season, Bautista’s career trajectory took an abrupt jolt due to a massive mistake by the Pirates’ GM, Dave Littlefield. Despite having three open spots on the 40-man roster, the Pirates chose not to protect a number of prospects, including Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, Chris Shelton and Bautista. Even before the draft, a number of people within baseball were wondering what Littlefield was thinking, leaving so many players unprotected. In the Major League Phase of the Rule V Draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Shelton #1 overall, with Bautista going #6 overall to the Baltimore Orioles. Bautista was lauded for his high ceiling and athleticism, along with his solid play in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Now with the Orioles, Bautista was ranked their #12 prospect despite only appearing in 58 games in 2003.
The Major League Phase of the Rule V draft requires draftees to be kept on the Major League roster for the entire season, or they must be offered back to their original team for half of the initial $50,000 used to select the paper (AKA $25,000). If the original team declines, the new team may send the player down to the minors.
As a result, Bautista opened the 2004 season with the Baltimore Orioles, primarily acting as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, picking up spot starts while putting up a 273/333/273 line over 16 games (with only 12 plate appearances) before being put on waivers in early June. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Bautista off of waivers on June 3. Bautista appeared in just 12 games with the Devil Rays over the course of the next three weeks before having his contract being purchased from the Devil Rays by the Kansas City Royals. With the Royals, Bautista appeared in 13 games before being dealt to the New York Mets for Justin Huber. Mets GM Jim Duquette, in his infinite wisdom, immediately turned around and packaged Bautista with Ty Wiggington and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger, errantly believing the Mets were still in playoff contention. Duquette also dealt top prospect Scott Kazmir with Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bartolome Fortunado and Victor Zambrano, giving a generation of Mets fans a source of woe. Bautista remained with the Pirates for the rest of the season, appearing in 23 games and putting up a woeful 200/238/250 line.
Bautista’s final line for the 2004 season was 205/263/239 for four teams, though he was part of a fifth team for a hot minute. Despite all of this, Bautista was still viewed as a decent prospect, as Baseball America ranked him #12 in the Pirates system. The Pirates assigned Bautista to the AA Altoona Curve of the Eastern League, where Bautista absolutely crushed the ball, putting up a 283/364/503 line with 23 home runs across 117 games. Promoted to the AAA Indianapolis Indians of the International League on August 24, Bautista put up a 255/309/373 in 13 games. Given a September call up, Bautista put up a 143/226/179 line over 31 plate appearances during 11 games. After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #5 prospect in the Pirates’ organization and the Pirates named him their minor league player of the year.
Bautista began 2006 in Indianapolis, but was called up to be the Pirates’ utility man in early May when Joe Randa was hurt. With Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth, the Pirates center field platoon, struggling, Bautista played a significant amount of center field en route to putting up a 235/335/420 line across 117 games. Bautista appeared in 57 games in center field, 33 games at third base, 25 games in right field, 6 in left field, and two at second base (the totals will not add up, as Bautista appeared in multiple positions during a game on more than one occasion).
In 2007, Bautista was the Pirates primary third baseman, putting up a 254/339/414 line across 142 games; 126 games at third base, 16 in right field, 5 in center field, and 2 in left field (totals will not add up again due to in-game positional changes). Bautista missed significant time in July 2007 after Chipper Jones spike lacerated his hand, forcing Bautista onto the DL.
In 2008, Bautista helped the Tigres del Lincy win the Caribbean Series, putting up a robust 250.385/600 line while playing center field, left field, and third base, tying Miguel Tejada and Roberto Saucedo for the Caribbean Series lead in home runs. Bautista opened the 2008 season as the starting third baseman for the Pirates, but failed to show much improvement, and was supplanted by Andy LaRoche in late July. Having put up a 242/325/404 line with the Pirates, Bautista was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, which turned out to be Robinzon Diaz. Bautista closed out the year with 61 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, hitting a putrid 214/237/411.
Bautista opened the 2009 season platooning in left field with rookie Travis Snider and occasionally backing up Scott Rolen at third base. Bautista held a 234/356/355 line when the Blue Jays let the Chicago White Sox claim Alex Rios off waivers. Bautista played nearly every day for the rest of the season, putting up a 236/341/500 line with ten home runs. As the story goes, Vernon Wells told Bautista:
“You know what you should do. Think about starting as early as you can possibly imagine, so early that it seems ridiculous. And then start even earlier than that. What do you have to lose? If you look like a fool, you look like a fool. It’s just one game.”
That sudden power surge, with Bautista hitting six home runs in the final eight games of the season signaled that Bautista may have finally putting it all together.
Bautista opened the 2010 season as the Blue Jays’ right fielder and leadoff man, but when Fred Lewis was acquired, Bautista was moved back in the lineup. After a poor April (213/314/427), Bautista came alive in May and put up a 287/422/766 line with 12 home runs. Bautista had a poor June (179/324/369) and then came alive for the rest of the season, hitting 11 home runs in July, 12 in August, and 11 in September to lead the Major Leagues in home runs with 54 en route to a 260/378/617 season where he would also lead the majors in total bases with 351 (tied with Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez) while coming in fourth in MVP voting. Bautista was also elected to the All Star Game and was awarded the Silver Slugger.
After the season, Bautista signed a new contract with the Blue Jays for five years and $65 million guaranteed, with a club option worth $14 million for a sixth year (and a $1 million buyout). There was a lot of speculation in the off season if Bautista was the next big slugger who finally figured it out, or if Bautista was a player who had one nice season but would never be able to replicate the results. The Blue Jays clearly thought Bautista finally figured it out, but there were skeptics. Additionally, there were skeptics who felt that Bautista’s numbers were assisted by unnatural sources, such as steroids. As the debate raged between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Bautista remained steadfast in his denial: he had not used performance enhancing drugs.
Bautista used 2011 to silence his critics: he hit a robust 302/447/608 with 43 home runs (and 24 intentional walks), coming in third place in the MVP vote, making his second consecutive All Star Game, and being awarded his second Silver Slugger. But Bautista struggled with minor injuries in the second half of the season, as he only hit 257/419/477 after putting up a video game-like 334/468/702 in the first half.
In the 2011-2012 off season, the steroid rumors swirled again, with Bautista stating:
“I don’t mind it; it’s something that is not going to affect my focus and I’m not going to allow it to affect how I play my game. They are entitled to do whatever they want and test you as many times as they want. If I get picked to be tested a million times, that’s fine with me.”
So what happens from here? I think Bautista has a nice next few seasons, but I think we have seen the peak of Jose Bautista. Bautista is 31, an age when athletic performance declines, and has gotten off to a slow start so far in 2012, with a 181/320/313 line in the season’s first month. Even baseball writers have noted Bautista’s slow start with an implied belief that (a) Bautista is for real and (b) it’s merely a slump, such as Baseball Prospectus‘ Ben Lindberg:
Person who's probably pretty happy that Pujols isn't hitting: Jose Bautista, who isn't hitting much either.—
Ben Lindbergh (@ben_lindbergh) May 01, 2012
and FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi:
and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
I think Bautista will bounce back with a solid season with 35+ home runs, a level he will maintain for the next few seasons. If Bautista hits 25 per year for each of the next four years – a very attainable level for someone who has his talent and #want, he could easily end up one of the top 200 home run hitters of all time (250 total would be 200th all time).
While Jose Bautista will never be elected to the Hall of Fame (unless he goes all Barry Bonds on us), it’s great to see him get a chance and succeed at the highest level after all he’s gone through – especially his horrific 2004.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.