March 31, 2008

Jack Morris on Johan Santana - THROW LESS CHANGE-UPS!!!

In today's Newsday, Jack Morris comments on Mets' superstar acquisition, Johan Santana, (via XM Radio, as reported by columnist Ken Davidoff), explaining that Santana is throwing his change-up too much.

From Davidoff:

Morris, the winner of 254 games in his major-league career, saw plenty of Santana the last three years. He served as a Twins television analyst, and he makes his full-time home in Minnesota, so the games he doesn't broadcast, he sees on television.

And this is what Morris saw:"It's my opinion that his changeup is definitely not a strikeout pitch," Morris said of Santana this past week in a telephone interview. "He has fallen in love with it. I don't like what I see, because I love his slider and his 95-mph fastball. His go-to pitch is what I consider his third pitch."

"History says that he'll pitch better in the National League. But it would be my guess that if he has any problems, it'll be because of that changeup. It won't be because he's throwing a nasty slider."

Davidoff also references statistical guru, via Bill James' new website, BillJamesOnline, a fee-based membership site:

According to "Bill James Online," the new Web site by the godfather of modern-day statistical analysis, Santana has become increasingly reliant on his changeup. In 2003, his first full season in the big leagues, he threw 63 percent fastballs, 16 percent sliders and 15 percent changeups. By 2005, that evolved to 53 percent fastballs, 22 percent changeups and 15 percent sliders. And last year, Santana threw 58 percent fastballs, 29 percent changeups and 11 percent sliders.

Morris adds:
"If you look at last year, compared to the rest of his years with the Twins, he gave up a lot more home runs [33, topping his high of 24 set in 2004 and 2006]," Morris said. "The majority of those home runs were changeups over the plate. If the AL is catching up to his pattern, if baseball is catching up to him, then he's going to have to reinvent the wheel. If the NL doesn't understand him, or doesn't scout him properly, he'll succeed. But if they get his pattern right away, Johan is going to have to adjust, not the hitters."

Davidoff, surprisingly, has been the only major baseball writer to address Johan's diminished performace in a way that makes sense. Prior to the trade being finalized, in one of our posts, we were concerned that perhaps Johan wasn't entirely healthy, explaining why he had given up so many more homers last season and didn't seem to be quite as dominating in what turned out to be his last season in the American League. Morris and James' explanations, via Davidoff, makes a lot of sense AND makes us quite happy to see that this slight decline is NOT based, for a change, on diminished health reasons! I am sure that Rick Peterson will work with Santana should this trend continue, but Morris summed it up best:

"He's a smart kid," he said. "I think he's smart enough to adjust."

Amen, Jack - AMEN!!

We'll let you know how Johan and the team looked today later tonite, when we witness Opening Day live from Miami- we'll post pics tonite after we get home from the game!


Anonymous said...

they make a great point but stats only go so far

Anonymous said...

i thought that his change up was his best pitch. am i wrong???

Anonymous said...

well lets hope that they are wrong about hitters catching up to him and he can dominate the NL

David Rubin & Jonathan Elfenbein said...

The Change-Up is, indeed his best pitch - I think that Morris' point is that he throws it too much, allowing batters to eventually get a jump on it, causing more homers last season. With a 95 mph fastball, Morris encourages him to use it more often, making the change more devistating by not knowing when it's coming. I agree with him to the extent that Johan had his worst statistical season last year. However, pitching in the NL should mitigate a lot of that, and as Morris said, he's a smart guy and if he or Rick Peterson perceives it to be an ongoing problem, I'm sure they'll make the necessary adjustments!

It's Opening Day, and Johan is pitching for US - so whatever Morris says doesn't really mean all that much...just really makes for interesting reading and perspective.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing up the confusion regarding Santana's change-up being his best pitch.. I was confused as well.

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