What's Wrong With Johan? | Sharapova's Thigh

What's Wrong With Johan?

Posted by Matt Clapp | 6/15/2009 06:00:00 AM | , , ,

Mets ace Johan Santana's recent struggles could be injury-related.

Yesterday when I saw that the New York Yankees clobbered the crosstown-rival New York Mets 15-0, I immediately assumed Livan Hernandez or Tim Redding was pitching for the Mets. When I checked the box score and saw it was Johan Santana, I was absolutely shocked, and even moreso when I saw his line: 3 innings pitched, 9 hits, 9 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts. That's not two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Right away I knew that was the worst start of his career.

Johan allowed 5 runs and 4 home runs in his previous start against the Philadelphia Phillies. That also is not at all like Johan Santana. He had allowed that many home runs in a start only once in his career prior to that outing. So clearly something's not right, and I'd be surprised if it's a simple slump or mechanical issue.

He's also seen a decrease in his velocity, which is definitely not a good sign:

Santana appeared to top out at 92 mph yesterday, or about 2-3 mph below his usual number, but most fastball readings were in the high 80s.
Johan did inform the media that he's dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, and pretty much gave the media the middle finger when they questioned if it's more than just a blister causing these problems, such as a "dead arm":

"Who calls that? You? How you know that?" Santana barked at a reporter who asked him about dead arm. "No, that's not even close. I'm fine. There's not much I can say. I'm fine."
Manager Jerry Manuel claims "It's a delivery issue", but I'm not going to buy that. In ten seasons in the majors, Johan's never looked this bad. I doubt all of a sudden arguably the most consistent pitcher of this era is off with his mechanics enough to get shelled like he has been in the last two starts.

The blister definitely could be the cause of this. Any discomfort and inability to grip the ball in a preferred manner could easily cause a drop in velocity and missed location with pitches.

It could be Johan going through a dead arm period as well, even though he and the Mets vehemently denied it. He threw 100+ pitches in eight straight starts coming into June, and he's now dealing with arm fatigue.

Maybe it's a combination of those two things. Whatever the case, it's unlikely anything too serious and we will probably see the usual Johan Santana soon. The Mets should certainly proceed with caution though, and I'd recommend they skip his upcoming start. A blister on the pitching hand can be an issue all season without some time off, just ask Josh Beckett. And obviously if it's a tired arm, some rest is needed.

The Mets can win the National League East, but they can't without Johan Santana pitching like the dominant ace he's been for so many years.

(Quotes from the New York Post)

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