On Jan. 24, 2018, a new class of National Baseball Hall of Famers will be announced. Voting is done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who are allowed to select up to 10 members on their ballot. In order to be inducted into Cooperstown, a candidate must receive votes on at least 75 percent of the ballots. This rule does not apply for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Modern Era ballot, which calls for 12 or more votes from the 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee.
Voting, according to BaseballHall.org, is “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Under these credentials, former Twins and Mets ace Johan Santana should, without a doubt, be named into the Hall of Fame.
Santana, a Venezuelan born lefty, played 12 seasons in the majors. At just 15 years of age, he was discovered by former Houston Astros scout, Andres Reiner. It appeared he would climb up the ladder as a member of the Astros, but after the 1999 season, Houston left Santana unprotected, which meant he was eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
The Minnesota Twins, who obtained the first pick in the draft, made a deal with the Florida Marlins, saying that they would select Jared Camp, and Florida would select Santana. The clubs would then swap the two players and Minnesota would receive some cash to cover the pick.
After struggling as a rookie out of the bullpen and starting a few games, Santana was sent to the minors for two months, mostly to work on perfecting his changeup. The changeup would end up being Santana’s go-to pitch, and really turned him into an elite pitcher. In 2003, Santana went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA. During the same year, because of Santana’s early success, a young Angels pitching prospect, also named Johan Santana, changed his name to Ervin.
2004 marked the first year in which Santana was named a full-time starter. This is also the year that Santana had one of the best second halves of all time. He went a perfect 13-0, and became the first pitcher since 1961 to give up four or fewer hits in 10 consecutive starts. Santana finished the year at 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA. Not only did he lead the league in ERA, but Santana also finished first in strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, K/9, and H/9. At the end of the season, Santana was named the AL CY Young Award winner.
From 2004-2008, Johan Santana posted a 2.82 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while averaging 238 strikeouts, 229 innings and a 7.1 WAR per season. He won two AL Cy Young Awards, and really should have won three. In 2005, Bartolo Colon was given the award despite having a worse ERA, WHIP and less strikeouts than Santana. During this time period, Santana also led his league three times in strikeouts, K/9, FIP, ERA, and ERA+. He led the league in WHIP four times, and pitched more innings than anyone else in 2006 and 2008.
After multiple injuries and surgeries, Santana missed the 2011 season in order to recover from anterior capsule surgery to his left shoulder. In June of 2012, only his 11th start since returning from surgery, Santana threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Another surgery in 2014 ultimately led to the end of his MLB career.
Hall of Fame Case
Santana is one of 19 pitchers to win multiple Cy Young Awards. Of those 19, 10 are already in the Hall of Fame. He is arguably the greatest Venezuelan born pitcher. Some might consider Felix Hernandez, but Santana’s numbers are superior.
Santana had three seasons in which he pitched at least 200 innings, struck out 230 or more batters, had below a 2.90 ERA, and had a FIP under 3.05. Some notable pitchers who also had three seasons with these statistics are Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson. All of these men are members of the Hall of Fame. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Fergie Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson and Bob Feller all had only two seasons with these numbers.
|PITCHERS WHO WON AT LEAST 130 GAMES, ERA<=3.21, SO>=1980, WHIP<1.14, IP>= 2000
BOLD= HALL OF FAME
|PITCHERS WHO STRUCKOUT 24% OR MORE OF THEIR BATTERS, PITCHED AT LEAST 2000 INNINGS, AND HAD AN ERA BELOW 3.25
BOLD= HALL OF FAME
Santana is also the only pitcher in MLB history to have three seasons of at least 225 innings pitched, an ERA below 2.90, a K/9 of 9 or greater and a WHIP under 1. He joins Pedro Martinez as the only other pitcher in history, minimum 2,000 innings, to walk less than seven percent and strikeout 24 percent or more of the batters faced.
If we look at some questions from Bill James’ famous “Keltner list,” it is clear that Santana has a serious shot at making it. He was the best player at his position from 2005-08. He helped the Twins win four division titles and also finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in 2004 and 2006. Santana was a four-time All-Star who also won the pitching triple crown in 2006 (leader in wins, strikeouts and ERA).
Santana had arguably the best four-year stretch we have ever seen. Off the field, he is nothing but a professional. In 2006, Santana started the Johan Santana Foundation, in which he provided assistance to hospitals and bought new gloves and bats for children in the surrounding areas. In 2012, his foundation expanded to the Hispanic community of New York, helping families who were impacted by 9/11.
As a kid, Santana was my favorite pitcher. Growing up in Massachusetts, oddly enough, I had a Johan Santana Mets t-shirt jersey that I wore until the lettering was destroyed. After looking at the numbers in his prime, Johan Santana was one of the best to ever do it.
Featured image by WCCO-CBS LOCAL
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