WHIFF PROFILE: JOHAN SANTANA
He went from Rule 5 draft pick to, almost unarguably, the best pitcher in baseball over the last 4 seasons. And now, he's the hot stove's hottest.
We've seen plenty of pitchers come into the big leagues with four, even five pitches in their repertoire, with the ability to execute one or even zero. Santana has only thrown three pitches since he became a starter: a fastball, slider, and changeup, and he's been ruthlessly efficient with each.
Santana's fastball averages 91.9mph, which is very good for a left-handed starter but only a 70th percentile MLB velocity. Yet, the fear of his changeup drips off his fastball WHIFF (.192), which ranks in the 87th percentile. Santana has a deceptive delivery as well, hiding the ball very well as he chicken-wings and shot-puts the ball to home plate. You don't see too many deliveries like Santana's. Besides short arm action, it's not exactly smooth or clean, but there's nothing problematic about his health or performance.
His changeup is the beast of the trio. It's been ranked 1st, 4th, and 7th in WHIFF the last three seasons, which is remarkable consistency. Santana struck out 131 batters on this pitch last year, accounting for 56% of his K total. However, if there's one alarming thing about Santana's 2007 season, it's been how both his changeup and fastball got gophered. Santana gave up 33 homers last year, 21 on fastballs and 8 on changeups, numbers that were way up from the previous season.
If there's a weaker one of the bunch from an execution standpoint, it's his slider. Santana intends to throw this pitch exclusively to the 3rd base side of home plate, either trying to sneak it underneath the bat of a righty or get a lefty to reach. Yet at least a few times each game, he'll misrelease it, resulting in a back-up, cement-mixer type spinner up and out over the plate. For whatever reason, Santana rarely gets burned when this happens, as he only gave up 11 XBH all season on sliders. Most impressively, he throws it in the K-zone close to 45% of the time, well above the MLB average (41%).
Johan Santana WHIFF Breakdown
Fastball - .192 (MLB AVG .142)
Change - .399 (MLB AVG .277)
Slider - .333 (MLB AVG .302)