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Key Stats: Remember when Ervin Santana couldn’t pitch on the road (his ERA was over 8 in 2007)? Last year his ERA on the road was almost a full run better than it was at home. With a fastball that can come in at 97-98 MPH, Santana has always had the stuff to be filthy. His season in 2006 was actually pretty good and he was ranked in the top 100 by Yahoo standards.

Skeptics Say: While 2007 was by far Santana’s worst, it is possible that 2008 will be his best. The two seasons before were the middle ground of where Santana was as a pitcher the last two seasons combined.

Peer Comparison: Santana’s strikeout rate shot up significantly last season. Going back to the post All-Star break of 2006 his strikeout rate had been steadily improving every half season, so the increase isn’t that radical. The best explanation for the increase is simply development. There have been other cases like this in recent history.

It was comforting to see that A.J. Burnett also started out of the gates with a humble looking strikeout rate of 6.6 K/9 innings in his first full year. As a guy who broke into the league in 1999, Burnett’s best K rate seasons have actually come about in 2007 and 2008.

From 2002-2005 C.C. Sabathia had a 6.7 K/9 inning rate, but the past three seasons he has averaged 8.3 K/9 innings.

Just because Santana didn’t have an Edinson Volquez type of strikeout beginning doesn’t mean he can’t become a strikeout pitcher. On the flip-side, concern with K/9 innnings should be taking place with guys trending downward like Carlos Zambrano and Cole Hamels.
Team Outlook: There’s been a lot of talk throughout baseball lately about the ability for a catcher to make the ERA of a pitcher go down. This is a well-researched case that for the Angels it really doesn’t matter who is catching. Jeff Mathis started game two of the playoffs last year because the Angels thought that Mathis and Santana had a good relationship.

What They’re Saying: MLB.com: #13 Starting Pitcher and #78 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #13 Starting Pitcher and #52 Overall; Fox Sports: #9 Starting Pitcher; ESPN: #14 Starting Pitcher; Yahoo: #14 Starting Pitcher and #88 Overall

Projection: This year could prove to be a contract year for Santana even though he will be under the Angels control trough 2011.
18 wins 3.57 ERA 1.19 WHIP 219K in 215 innings

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