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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 19, 2008 12:49 PM

Pivotal start versus Santana

Posted by Geoff Baker

Some of you are already predicting a series sweep by the Los Angeles Angels coming off last night's 5-4 defeat for the M's. Well, I can tell you one thing. Tonight's tilt (a 6 p.m. contest) will likely decide which team wins this series. And the Mariners are in tough against homebody Ervin Santana, a pitcher who would be one of the top arms in the AL if he threw every game at Angel Stadium. Who can figure this guy out? Santana is 25-9 with a 3.14 earned run average at home since 2005, while going just 10-21, with a 7.14 ERA on the road. There have been Masters theses done on this guy's splits.

Santana's batting average on balls put into play (BAbip) -- our hot new discussion stat of the week, it seems -- is .270 at home, but a whopping .323 on the road. When you consider that .290 is about average, one would guess Santana has been quite unlucky when it comes to batted balls his fielders convert into outs. One would expect him to regress back to the mean and improve on the road, right? He actually won a road game the other night in Texas. But, well, you know. It was Texas. Not a great team. But it was on the road, give him that.

But if you buy into the BAbip theory, that would means he's been unlucky for what, three years? Seems a stretch. His BAbip was just about normal on the road in 2006, but he still put up some ugly looking peripheral numbers, including a .796 OPS against. Not as bad as his .904 (!) career mark away from home, but hey. Still a good bet for the hitters.

Remember, the BAbip stat does not take home runs into account and Santana has yielded plenty of long balls on the road. A total of one per game on average, compared to one every two games at home.

Interesting, since Angel Stadium over the years has tended to favor hitters more than pitchers, especially last season. Go figure.

The Mariners will have to go figure because they need to do something against Santana tonight or they will drop their second series of the year. Replacement starter Dustin Moseley going tomorrow bodes well for the M's in the finale. But tonight is the toughie.

How will the M's prevail? My unscientific, wild guess: via the long ball. Santana doesn't walk a bunch of guys, home or away, so waiting him out may lead to more strikeouts than anything else. But lefties can hit the guy, so I'd say there's a chance of red-hot Raul Ibanez doing some damage. The M's have to work the count off Santana and do something with any hittable pitches they do get. Between Ibanez and Richie Sexson -- a righthander, but swinging better than I've seen him do in two years -- the chance of some extra base hits seems to be there. When Santana does lose, the balls tend to be flying out.

Otherwise, it could be a long night full of strikeouts. A big test of the "new" Seattle patient approach tonight. The M's can be patient, but they'll have to make contact when they get something.

Anyone else have an idea why Santana is two different pitchers? Let's hear it.

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Posted by jujay

1:45 PM, Apr 19, 2008

I'm showing some faith and picking up sexson for my fantasy team. konerko isnt doing me any good anyways

Posted by jayju

1:51 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Oh, that's nice jujay, maybe he'll hit fifty dingers in your fantasy, but just maybe he will hit less than .200 again in reality. So nice to have a fantasy.

Posted by Lance

2:00 PM, Apr 19, 2008

So, it was Kenji who called for the fastball? I was concerned A.J. was trying to convince himself and others that he could still get guys out with it.

Pitching rule #1, don't let yourself get beat with something other than your best pitch. A.J.'s #1 pitch is now the knuckleball. He'll have to sink or swim with it.

Lesson learned.

I just hope this doesn't prevent him for getting another start five games from now. It shouldn't.

And, hey. Look how Ryan Feierabend is taking off in Tacoma. If the M's need another starter it seems like he'd be the first guy to call on.

Losing Bedard for however long doesn't have to mean the season is kaput. Especially as good as Silva is looking.

Posted by scottM

2:02 PM, Apr 19, 2008

The answer to why he is two different pitchers is simple, GEOFF. The statistically verifiable BAbip differential is due to the fact that Santana is a clutch pitcher at home and a pitcher who chokes on the road.

Posted by scottM

2:04 PM, Apr 19, 2008


Is that what they call R.A. Dickey now that Adam Jones is gone?

Posted by Lonso

2:26 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Maybe it's the weather. Maybe he had a childhood trauma at summer camp and he doesn't like to leave home. Maybe they announce him as Johan at Angel Stadium and he plays along. Maybe he really does have a sister named Janet and she makes all the road starts. Maybe it's a combination.

Posted by Get Griffey

2:29 PM, Apr 19, 2008

A.J. ???

Posted by Cruisin Ballard

2:30 PM, Apr 19, 2008

my hypothesis for the uneven rd/hm splits?
he's a gutless pansy.
just like all the angels. hate em.
GO M's!

Posted by stango

2:31 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Geoff, this is at least the second time that you've referred to the "new" approach at the plate. In actuality, the M's under Lou and even Melvin were a pretty patient team. From '99-'03 they were in the top 5 in the AL in BB and OBP, even 1st a couple of times.

There was a sudden drop off a cliff in 2004, and we've been impatient since. It is 4 seasons, but not a historic trend with the M's. With this group certainly, and that's why we've all been frustrated the past few years, since we've seen the value of patience first hand, not very long ago. The free-swinging team is a recent trend.

Yes, I know that's a little nit-picky.

Posted by Ballard Cruisin

2:33 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Remind me to cruise Ballard for gutless pansies, I am sure I'll see you there.

Posted by Solon

2:36 PM, Apr 19, 2008


And maybe you've got a family of inbreeds, leave Santana's out of it.

Posted by Bruce

2:44 PM, Apr 19, 2008

I like Kenji a lot. But I'm still trying to figure out why would a knuckleballer throw a fastball to a fastball hitter with a 1-2 count. I didin't watch the game. Geoff any insight on that? Thanks.

As for the splits, there are many athletes that play much better at home than on the road. Call it home cooking, feeling more comfortable at home, good night sleep in your own bed, or whatever. It's psychological. Didn't Ho Ram have a milder case of the same thing last year (i.e. pitching better at home)?

Posted by scrapiron

3:05 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Why is Santana a better pitcher at home than on the road? Simple. The long ball. In the last 3 years he's given up 16 more home runs on the road than at home, and the Texas Rangers lead all teams with 13 home runs hit against him. My bet is that most of those homers came at Arlington.

So he gets a lot of flyball outs in Anaheim that go over the fence on the road in parks like Arlington.

Posted by scrapiron

3:10 PM, Apr 19, 2008

I just heard that ex-Mariner John Marzano has died. He was only 45.

I'll always remember him getting in a fight with Paul O'Neill as a Mariner.

He was always good for a quote and had a great sense of humor. RIP, John.

Posted by B'Ham

3:38 PM, Apr 19, 2008

We should all observe a moment of silence for John Marzano. I'm sure dave niehaus will address the subject tonight as he and Marzano were good friends.

Posted by kranky

4:02 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Marzano was an "all mouth, no stick" catcher. You had to love the guy.

Posted by JuPutzy

4:03 PM, Apr 19, 2008

So where are the little trolls tonight? Small mythological creatures that you are?

Posted by mark logan

4:09 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

4:39 PM, Apr 19, 2008

big whoop. so he's a better home pitcher than away. i'd rather have felix any day. felix is the king, santana is a clown. long live the king!

Posted by Lamda

4:44 PM, Apr 19, 2008

yeah the M's need to win this game to avoid the sweep. Batista has been pitching so horribly that we have little hope of winning tomorrow's game.

Posted by John

4:51 PM, Apr 19, 2008

This one is already over. Washburn gets crushed in Anaheim, especially by Vlad, who is pretty much guaranteed at least a couple of hits tonight and probably a long ball (if Washburn even pitches to him).
As far as tomorrow, it might be a slugfest, but if you match our sluggers against their, I'll still take Anaheim. I don't like the way Batista is throwing it this year at all.
All I can say is hurry back J.J., and let's hope Bedard is OK.
We're leaving Anaheim down 4 games.

Posted by drlo

4:59 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Scrapiron, I don't disagree with what you write about Santana, especially in Texas, but there seems to be more at work too. His Safeco split (granted only three games) is pretty terrible as well.

Posted by Brian

5:04 PM, Apr 19, 2008

What silly nonsense. If you knew anything about Ervin Santana you'd know the Rangers have been a nightmare for Santana. Especially in Texas. He's turned the corner and is pitching like he can. He just has to remember he can pitch. Even if the Rangers do stink as a team their offense can hurt pitching if you don't pitch well.

Posted by Faceplant

5:04 PM, Apr 19, 2008

"I like Kenji a lot. But I'm still trying to figure out why would a knuckleballer throw a fastball to a fastball hitter with a 1-2 count."

Well, he had pretty much thrown him nothing but knuckleballs the entire at bat. They were trying to jam him with a fastball. Maybe break his bat, or at least get in his kitchen. The idea though is to throw it off the plate inside. Dickey caught too much of the plate with it and payed for it.

Basically I think it was the right pitch, bad execution.

Posted by Faceplant

5:08 PM, Apr 19, 2008

I always loved John Marzano. I remember how after someone hit a HR Marzano would always go sit next to them in the dugout. He said it was the only way he could get a little TV time.

Stiicking up for Tim Davis also was one of my favorite Mariner moments. I think a lot of people wanted to punch Paul O'Niell. Marzy did it for us.

RIP John

Posted by Joof

5:47 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Just pointing out that BABIP only works if you're a major league quality pitcher. If you're a terrible pitcher, it doesn't hold.

Posted by kruse

7:19 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Well, you'd have to figure this game is close to over at 4-0 the way our offense is hitting (or not). Santana is in control.

Posted by Brian

7:37 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Hey, so far Santana has shut the Mariners out for six innings. If he keeps this up is it because he's really good or the Mariners stink?

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