It seemed as though every postgame of a Santana start began with, “Johan didn’t have his best stuff, but …”. Indeed, Santana rarely had his best stuff. Most of the time, he looked more like a wily, crafty veteran, using his smarts, guile, guts, and savvy to overcome fading stuff and keep his team in the ballgame for seven innings.
Don’t get me wrong – that’s not to make Santana sound like Jamie Moyer. More like Catfish Hunter in the second half of 1978, or Bobby Ojeda from ’86-’88 (if you’re old enough to remember that far back). That’s still a very good pitcher – better than most. But it’s not what a team expects from a pitcher being paid $21M+ per year.
Santana struggled with his command and lost considerable velocity on his fastball and slider. As a result, he induced fewer swings and misses and spent more effort to get them. Despite several assurances that he was completely healthy, it was finally discovered that Santana suffered a shoulder tear that required season-ending surgery in September. Santana described the injury as similar to the one that Jorge Posada suffered. It should be noted that Posada had arthroscopic surgery, while Santana received a much more invasive procedure.
It’s neither realistic nor fair to believe that Johan Santana will pitch for the Mets during the first half of 2011. If his rehab goes absolutely perfectly, there’s a chance he’ll pitch at some point in 2011, but no one has any idea how effectively. He could come back topping out at 85 MPH, for all we know. All things considered, it makes sense for the Mets to assume Santana will not pitch in 2011 and plan accordingly. It appears that 2011 will be a rebuilding season anyway, so there is no need to rush his rehab and chance further damage. Eat the $22.5M he will earn in 2011, with the hopes that he can return as a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2012 – when the team will presumably be better and he will be making $24M (and another $25.5M guaranteed in 2013). It could work out for the best, for everyone.