Things an ace does

I missed Johan Santana’s meltdown last night. I saw the David Wright and Rod Barajas home runs, and I watched the last five boring innings, after the game had already been decided. But the big blows — the unconscionable walk to Jamie Moyer with the bases loaded and the Shane Victorino — came while my friends and I were traveling from our hotel to an Atlanta bar to watch the rest of the game. And obviously I have no access to DVR or anything.

So I can’t answer for sure what happened to Johan Santana last night, as everyone seems to be asking this morning. He said he couldn’t command his fastball, and that seems a reasonable explanation. It happens.

His 2010 season lines, including last night’s brutal start, reflect some alarming trends: steadily increasing H/9 and BB/9 with a steadily declining K/9. Of course, that’s all in a very small sample, and Santana’s likely still building up strength off elbow surgery.

What I hope, though, — and the reason I’m writing this from a rainy Interstate between Atlanta and Birmingham — is that this one performance doesn’t give any Mets fan with a short memory enough fodder to wrongfully deem Santana “unclutch.”

It’s one game, for one thing. One regular season game. And yeah, it’s a rubber match of a series with the division rival when the Mets are playing well, but despite all the hype around it, one game just really doesn’t mean all that much. It doesn’t matter who’s in first place by a half game on May 3.

I’ve seen people write in various spots already that a performance like Santana’s last night simply is “not something an ace does.” My response? Apparently it is.

Because Santana is awesome, in all situations. Until we have more evidence that he’s anything but that, we must assume he still is. In the biggest game the Mets have ever asked Santana to pitch, he gave them a shutout on three days’ rest with a torn meniscus in his knee. One crappy start in early May shouldn’t make anyone forget about that, unless you think guys who are clutch can magically go unclutch.

He had a terrible start. It happens. It happened to happen at a bad time. Given how well Santana was pitching coming into the game, and given the fact that he’s Johan Santana, it’d be smart to wait until it happens again before deeming him anything but an ace.

6 thoughts on “Things an ace does

  1. I agree with the overall point. Johan’s the best pitcher we have, and still probably one of the better in the NL.

    However, he was not pitching all that well coming into the Philly massacre. His peripherals, especially his declining velocity, kinda suggested that the other shoe might drop. We didn’t think it would be a spiked heel, but it was.

    The truth here seems somewhere between “he’s the suckiest suck that ever sucked,” and “he’s an ace until he proves otherwise.” (I hate it when the truth is somewhere in between.)

    Johan’s on the backside of his prime, about to head into outright decline. He’s still quite likely to be pretty darn good this year, but when he’s off he’s going to look pretty awful.

  2. Johan is clearly the Mets ace and still one of the best pitchers in the MLB. It just hurt a lot to see him get rocked in the rubber match of a series against the Phillies when their new ace threw a 3-hit CG shutout.

    • It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. To us and to them.

      We easily beat them in the 2008 season series, and did it matter at all? Did they feel kind of wounded that even though they took the division, we’d been handling them all season? I’m betting not.

  3. I think it depends on what you call an ace. To me there’s no doubt in my mind Johan is our ace, and he’s easily a top ten pitcher in the NL and worth his contract. The problem is he can be all those things and still not be on the same level he was in 05 or 06 or be on the level of a Roy Halladay or a Tim Lincecum. I think the problem is people see those guys and assume if Johan isn’t just as good as them then he’s a bum, or if he isn’t the same Johan he was in 06 then he’s a bum, it’s like either he’s Halladay or he’s Oliver Perez there’s no middle ground to a lot of fans. When there’s a pretty wide disparity between most of the leagues “aces” and guys like Halladay or Lincecum, or poor Greinke.

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