Tonight is the first of back-to-back pitching genius features at Nationals Park. It's not often that you get to see two future Hall of Famers in their primes take the mound on consecutive nights. Yeah, I guess it's a little premature to declare Peavy and Santana Hall of Famers, but I think they'll both be cinches when their time comes. It's a real treat, even though they are throwing for the opposition.
Here's my take on the final game this season against the one and only team in MLB that we have bragging rights over. (For more on New York's offense and bullpen, check out my preview of game one of last week's two game series.)
Johan Santana: What makes Santana so great? It's pretty simple actually, and as a fan you can see it really easily if you know what you're looking at. He throws four pitches: four-seam (with 'rising' action) and two-seam (more sinking action) fastballs, a change-up, and a slider. His arm action on all four is the same, but in the last instant the slider dives down and away from lefties and the change up just stops and falls off the table. The four-seamer is his best get-ahead pitch. And then against righties he puts them away with the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't change-up and against lefties he tends to use the slider, breaking hard down and away. But the trick for both is the same. Hitters think they're getting a fastball, swing, and look silly. If you see the downward movement, it's the change, and if you see the darting action away from lefties, it's the slider.
This chart from a much more detailed breakdown of Santana at "Statistically Speaking" shows you the late break on his pitches from the hitters' perspective:
That much break in the last .25 seconds, plus the difference in velocity--it's a killer combination, even though he rarely even touches 94.
Tim Redding: Earlier this week I pointed out how well Odalis Perez's 2008 holds up in comparison to other free agents. No matter what your budget was, no FA besides Kyle Lohse posted a better ERA than Odalis.
Looking back at the FA class of 2006, Redding stacks up pretty well too. Again, even with an unlimited budget, Redding's 2008 ERA of 4.54 is better than anyone Bowden could have signed not named Ted Lilly (4.13), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.93), Mike Mussina (3.62), or Gil Meche (4.14). Some of the much more expensive and worse options? Barry Zito (5.48), Kei Igawa (13.50), Adam Eaton (5.80), Miguel Batista (6.19)...
My point? Well, number one, never let it be said that I don't give Bowden credit for the good things he does. But also this should tell you something about free agency. There are not a lot of great options out there, and there are basically zero sure things. Like any other form of player acquisition, it's about player evaluation and projection--picking the right guys, not spending the most money.
(Season record: 29-18)
Mets win, 6-2.