As we enter this weekend’s series against the amazing Mets tonight, there has been nothing more amazing than Johan Santana. One week from today, the 33 year old southpaw pitched the Met’s first no-hitter of the team’s 51 year history, 8,019 games of what if’s as they watched Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Phil Humber, David Cone, and Dwight Gooden do the same for other teams. Even more amazing, Santana was only 10 regular season starts removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder. Aside from the no-hitter, the lefty hasn’t skipped a beat in his return, posting a 2.38 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.00 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9 through his first 68.0 innings of 2012. Obviously the gaudy results are there, but have his pitches been affected by the surgery? Charted below is the PITCHf/x data from his 2010 season compared to his 2012 season, courtesy of Harry Pavlidis’ and Lucas Apostoleris’ player cards at BrooksBaseball.net.
|Pitch||Selection||H Mvt||V Mvt (w/grav)||MPH||Spin Angle||Rotation||Whiff%|
As you can see, the selection for all four of his pitches has remained the same, while the velocity decreased overall by only one mile per hour. Movement-wise, the rotation of his pitches remained nearly identical from 2010 to 2012, and the slight difference in spin angles has resulted in a slight difference in both horizontal and vertical movement. That minute deviation is insignificant though, and likely the product of small sample size. The similarities between 2010 and 2012 are incredible for someone who went through major shoulder surgery. The only big difference is in whiff rates, and it’s the exact opposite of what we’d expect, Santana has been earning swings and misses more often this year. Needless to say, his comeback as been a success.
The narrative of tonight’s game on YES will be Santana’s incredible resurgence, and I expect to hear about that one time he almost became a Yankee, no thanks to Phil Hughes. I might be writing this article because of the matchup tonight, but there is something I think Yankee fans missed behind Santana’s recovery, and that’s Michael Pineda‘s. When the Yankees new flame thrower went down for the year with an anterior labral tear in his pitching shoulder, many questioned the type of recovery he would have, some saying he’d never be the same pitcher. You can’t flat out compare a veteran pitcher like Johan Santana and a pitcher a year removed from his rookie season in Michael Pineda, but when you put it into context, things certainly appear brighter. While both injuries were tears to the anterior labrum, Santana’s injury also included a severe tear to the capsule that required an open incision. Pineda’s injury never amounted to a tear in the capsule, and the minor labral tear only required arthroscopic surgery.
We’re talking about two different pitchers, two different bodies, and two different mechanics, but when you see how well Santana has recovered from a much more severe medical issue, I can’t help but be optimistic about Pineda. As I recall the exciting circumstances of the possible Santana trade four years ago, his brilliance on the mound, and the history he brought to our crosstown rivals, I can’t help but imagine Michael Pineda will be shocking the world in 2013 as next year’s Johan Santana. When I watch the probable comeback player of the year pitch tonight against the Yankees, there will be a small part of my heart rooting for him… a very small part.
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