Mar 12, 2016

Former Mets Pitcher: Johan Santana (2008-2013)

Johan Alexander Santana was born on March 19th 1979 in Tovar, Venezuela. The six foot left hander, was discovered by the Houston Astros but they left him unprotected & he was drafted away by the Florida Marlins.

In a deal of first & second round picks, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp & cash. 

He soon developed his nasty change up which has become the best change in baseball. The pitch is tough for a batter to drive the ball on and to close to the strike zone for him to take. It swirls causing batters to lunge out at it, usually swinging & missing. He also throws a fast ball in the lower to mid nineties with the same delivery which also confuses hitters. Santana started out as a reliever in the Twins bullpen from 2000-2003. 

In 2000 he appeared 30 games going 2-3 with a high 6.49 ERA. In 2001 he was with the Twins from April to early July appearing 15 games going 1-0 with a 4.74 ERA, 28 strike outs in 43 innings.

In those first two seasons he only made nine starts. He was thrown into the starting rotation by manager Ron Gardenhire & it all came together. First in 2002 in 14 starts & 27 over all appearances he was 8-6 but now he struck out 137 batters in just 108 innings pitched & posted a 2.99 ERA. 

In 2003 he went 12-3 winning his last eight starts in a row, leading the Twins to a playoff berth. He struck out 169 batters (8th in the league) in 158 innings pitched while posting a 3.07 ERA. In the ALDS he pitched five scoreless innings in the opener but got no decision in the Twins 3-1 victory. He returned but took the loss in the final Game #4. 

In 2004 he had a slow first half of the season, pitching well but ending up at 7-6. He then went on to tied an MLB record going an incredible 13-0 in the second half of the season, leading the Twins to another playoff berth. In the second half he averaged eleven strikeouts per nine innings & posted a 1.13 ERA. He pitched eight innings three times allowing less than two earned runs each time. That season he struck out ten or more batters in a game twelve times, posting 12 or more five times with a high of 14 against Baltimore on September 19th. 

Santana won his first Cy Young Award, going 20-6 and leading the AL in both ERA (2.61) & strikeouts (265) pitching in 228 Innings (second in the AL) with one complete game shutout. His 265 strike outs were a club record passing Bert Blylevens old mark of 258 in 1973. 

Post Season: He went on to beat the A.L. New York club in Game #1 of the ALDS pitching seven shutout innings. He began the final Game #4 but go no decision. It was his last post season appearance to date.

 In 2005 the Twins weak offense didn’t score many runs, he went 16-7 (5th most wins in the al) and led the league for the third straight year with 238 K’s. He was second in the league with a 2.87 ERA, he pitched 232 innings (2nd in the AL) & tossed three complete games. Santana was always better in the second half, this year was no exception as he went 9-2 after the break pitching at least eight innings six times. 

On August 12th in Oakland he pitched a three hit shut out against the A's , striking out none. He came back to strike out ten White Sox in Chicago in his next start. He would get 13 strike outs the next time he faced them at home in September. 

Santana was spectacular in 2006 winning his second CY Young Award, becoming the first pitcher since the Mets’ Doc Gooden to win the Pitching Triple Crown. He was tops in wins (19) Ks (245) & ERA (2.77).

After the All Star break he once again had an incredible run, going went 10-1 posting an ERA under two. In that stretch he never allowed more than three earned runs in a game, and went at least eight innings three times. On August 15th he threw a three hit eight inning shutout against the Indians at the Metro Dome. On the season he had nine games where he posted double figures in strike outs, including three in a row in early May. For the third straight year he allowed the fewest walks & hits per innings in the American League. He also led the league in innings (233) starts (34) & strike outs per nine innings for the third straight year (9.4). 

In 2007 Johan pitched against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in an interleague game that summer. On the team bus on the way to the game, Twins broadcaster the former great pitcher, Bert Blyleven said he would shave his head if Johan pitched a shutout.

From a box seat at Shea, my brother & I watched Santana shut down the Mets in a four hit complete game 9-0 shutout performance. Santana did the honors of shaving Blyleven’s head the next day. 
 That summer Johan made his third All Star team & went on to win his first Gold Glove Award. In a rain shortened game on the last day of the season, he ended a streak of pitching beyond the 5th inning in 123 straight starts. This incredible streak is the third longest in the past 50 years.

He finished the year at 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA, his highest since becoming a starter. He was still considered one of the games top pitchers & The small market Twins knew they wouldn’t be able to pay Johan the big salary. 

In the winter of 2008 he was traded to the New York Mets for prospects, Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber & Kevin Mulvey. In February the Mets gave him a huge six year $137 million deal to keep him pitching in New York. 
 Santana made his Mets debut on Opening Day 2008 in Florida against the Marlins. He allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings earning the 7-2 victory. He took losses in his next two outings but then came back with two straight wins. On May 10 although he gave up ten hits, he just surrendered three runs beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-2, for his first win at Shea Stadium.

A week later he went across town & beat the A.L. New York club in his first subway series matchup. He went into the 8th inning that day, allowing four runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in the 7-4 Mets win. On June 1st, he beat the Los Angeles Dodgers at home, for his 100th career victory at the age of 29. 

He then lost four straight decisions that month, three of them coming during inter league play. At the end of June he took a tough subway series loss at home, but the team only put up two runs for him, losing 3-2. 
 Up until that point, low run support & a horrible 2008 bullpen cost Santana at least five additional victories. From that point on he did it all himself. He would not lose another game all season & carried his pitching staff to within one game of a playoff berth. He would go 9-0 with three complete games & pitch into the 8th inning or beyond six times.

On August 17th he pitched a three hit shutout in Pittsburgh striking out seven Pirates in a 4-0 shut out. In his next start he pitched eight shut out innings against the Houston Astros, walking just one batter & leading his team to a 3-0 win. After a no decision effort on September 1st, he would pitch seven innings or more in five starts through the rest of the year, going 4-0 in the September pennant race. 

In an incredible performance of determination & team leadership he had one of his best Mets games on the next to last day of the season. Santana threw a three hit shutout against the Florida Marlins, striking out nine, to keep the Mets in playoff contention until the last game of the year. In his last two performances he had struck out nine or more batters giving him 206 on the year, making it five straight seasons with 200 plus K’s. 
 He finished the year at 16-7 leading the league in ERA (2.53) innings pitched (234) & games started (34). He was second in the league in strikeouts (206) & shutouts (3) & third in complete games (3). He also came in third place in the CY Young voting. As soon as the season ended, on October 1st he underwent a successful knee surgery for a torn meniscus. 

He returned in 2009 with an Opening Day victory at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, pitching into the 6th inning allowing just one run on three hits with seven strike outs. In his next start he only allowed two runs while striking out 13 batters but the Mets couldn’t score any runs & he took a 2-1 loss. It was his loss first since the previous June.

In his next start against the Milwaukee Brewers he pitched seven scoreless innings not allowing any Brewer to get past first base. 

On April 24th, he beat the Washington Nationals striking out ten batters. On May 27th he struck out eleven Nationals, giving him his fourth double figure strike out game of the year.He won six of his next seven decisions and had an ERA just at 2.00 at the start of June. As the season went on he had arm trouble & as everything else went wrong for the 2009 Mets, Santana’s year was over in August. He needed to have bone chips removed from his elbow. He finished the year at 13-9 with 146 strike outs in 166 innings pitched, posting a 3.13 ERA. He was voted number three on a list of the Sporting News top 50 current players by a panel that included many Hall of Famers. 
  On Opening Day 2010 he beat the Marlins at Citi Field, and would have a strong April going 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. On May 2nd he had the worst day of his career giving up ten runs to the rival Phillies in a nationally broadcast game. He settled down allowing just seven runs in his next five starts but only earned two victories going into July.

On July 6th he had his best day of the year beating the Reds at Citi Field with a three hit shutout while hitting his own first career HR. He went 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA until July 23rd, and had an 8-5 record with one of the league’s best ERA’s. 

In August he threw a four hit shutout at home against the Colorado Rockies and on September 2nd pitched his last game of the season. Another injury required him to need surgery for the third straight season. He missed all of the 2011 season at the major league level. A Slow rehab had him get two starts at A ball St. Lucie where he pitched five innings allowing a run on five hits. 

Santana returned to Spring Training 2012 with a lot of attention surrounding him. On Opening Day he excited Mets fans with a five inning two hit shut out performance against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets went on to a 1-0 win with a David Wright RBI single. In his next start he went another five runs allowing just one run to the Washington Nats but he was he was out deluded by Stephen Stasburg 1-0.

His next start in Atlanta was not as good, getting hot for four runs never making it out of the first inning. Two no decisions followed where he allowed just one earned run in 12.2 innings of work. In the month of May he pitched well enough to keep his ERA at a solid 2.75 but only had a 2-2 record to show for it. 

Then on June 1st, Santana made Mets history by throwing the first no hitter in team history. With all the great pitchers New York has had in its history, and its thirty seven one hitters (including two last year by R.A. Dickey) Santana was the first to toss a no hitter. 
 It happened on June 1st, 2012 in front of 27, 000 fans at Citi Field against the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Santana rolled along, with the help of a spectacular outfield catch by Whitestone Queen's born Mike Baxter, who got injured on the play.

Santana struck out eight & walked five along the way. As the late innings approached every Mets fan was sitting on the edge of their seats hoping to see history & what a thrill it was. In the 9th inning Matt Holiday lined out to center field, Allan Craig flew out to left & it all came down to Santana against David Freese. Freese went down swinging and the Mets had their finest moment of the 2012 season.

 In his next start he lost a subway series matchup & then won two straight games defeating the Rays in Tampa & shutting out a good Baltimore Oriole team for six innings in a 5-0 Mets win at Citi.

On June 30th he pitched a three hit eight inning shutout in Los Angeles to beat the Dodgers. At the end of July he sprained his ankle & was placed on the 15 day disable list. He lost what turned out to be his final five games of the year, giving up six runs or more each time,as he was shut down with inflammation in his lower back. With the Mets going nowhere his season ended in mid August. 

In 2012 Santana was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA. In 21 starts he struck out 111 batters while walking just 39 in 117 innings of work. By far it was the worst statistical season for him since becoming a starter in his third season.

In 2013 the Mets were optimistic that Santana would be ready for Opening Day. But in Spring Training GM Sandy Alderson said that he would start the season on the disabled list. A few days later an MRI showed he had re-torn the capsule in his shoulder & another surgery was needed. Santana missed the entire season & in November of 2013 was granted free agency.

In 2014 he signed on with the Baltimore Orioles but did not pitch. In 2015 he was given a contract by the Toronto Blue Jays.

In his twelve year career Santana won two Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles & one victory title.He has been named to four All Star squads as well. Santana is 139-78 life time with a 3.20 ERA (247th all time). He struck out 1988 batters (75th all time) with a 8.883 strike out per nine inning ratio (14th best all time). He has walked 567 in 2025 innings of work, his 2.519 base on balls average per nine innings is 21st best all time. Santana has ten shut outs, with 15 complete games in 360 games. 

Family: Johan & his wife Yasmile, have two daughters & live in Miromr Lakes, Florida. 

Charity: He is very active in the community, doing a lot for work for local hospitals & charities through the Johan Santana Foundation.

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