Off the Cuff

I've jotted just a few notes on some of the pitching surprises in the AL so far.  If you have any questions on a particular pitcher or just want my opinion on someone, AL or NL, just drop me a line at

Johan Santana

Has anyone noticed that Johan Santana is giving up home runs at twice his career rate?  Eventually, someone will take a look at the video tape wondering why Santana is giving up so many bombs and say, "hey, I don't even have to look at the catcher to know what he's gonna throw".  Yes, he's a flyball pitcher but unless the wind is gusting out with gale force in every stadium he's pitching in (including the Metrodome), that isn't why he's giving up as many home runs as he is.

Will someone please tell the Minnesota Twins that Johan Santana is tipping his pitches?  While he's getting a four finger grip on the baseball to throw his change-up, he fans his glove a little and keeps it open up to the point of delivery.  When he throws his fastball - which has a two-finger grip - his glove is almost closed.  The only way it could be more obvious for a hitter standing 60 feet away is if he were flashing a neon sign above his head saying "fastball" and "change-up".   Watching his last home start, I was able to predict 90% of the pitches I saw.  The percentage would have been higher had he not mixed in a half dozen or so sliders.

I've heard two broadcasters mention it in the televised games.  If they can see it from the booth, why isn't one of his teammates on the field picking this up?  Someone, say, like his catcher.  The crazy thing is his pitches are so good, that even when the hitters know what's coming they still strike out at a high rate.  Once this gets corrected, Santana will get back to his projected level of excellence.

Texas Rangers Pitching

It seems like an easy score to say that the Texas Rangers pitching staff is pitching way over it's head.  Unfortunately, that wouldn't necessarily be correct. 

Yes, the starters as a whole are pitching better than should be expected, but it's not because of guys like Joaquin Benoit and RA Dickey.

It's true that Dickey's excellent showing so far is a surprise and that it probably can't continue at this rate.  But that doesn't mean he's going to plummet to Shawn Estes-type depths.  His career numbers show a guy who gives up a few more hits than innings pitched, but is fairly stingy on walks.  So a good portion of the expected increase in hits allowed could be offset by a decrease in walk rate.  Expect him to finish with a WHIP in the low 1.300 range, which should put his final ERA a little over 4.00.

Joaquin Benoit has always had the stuff to succeed.  It was just a matter of him relaxing on the mound and letting his pitches do the work.  He still has bouts of anxiety about silly things - those of you who watched his ESPN game against Boston saw him look Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek back to their bases several times despite a 5-1 lead - but he will eventually get settled in.  His current WHIP (1.225) is very much in line with what he did in the minors.  He's for real and he'll get better this year.

Chan Ho Park has looked shaky, but know that for his career, his first half ERA/WHIP is 4.64/1.402, second half is 3.54/1.329.  If he's completely healthy, and it looks as though he is, he will also be a nice second half play.

Kenny Rogers is the only Ranger who's pitching well over his head, and like Dickey, much of that is due to hit prevention, especially home runs.  He's allowed one home run this season - which puts him at a pace to surrender between 5 and 6 for the full year - after averaging over 20 per season the last 4 years.  At his age, in that park, that won't continue. 

Ryan Drese is over his head as well.  But once Ricardo Rodriguez and Colby Lewis are healthy and/or Juan Dominguez is ready, that probably won't matter.  And that should only be another month or two.  The Rangers pitching staff is for real. 

It's not quite as good as it's looked so far, but they have talent and a solid bullpen so they are not going to blow up the way they have in previous years.