Admittedly, this is a geek-out post...
We all know that Johan is the Man-tana. He's widely considered the best pitcher in baseball, so it comes as no surprise to the national media that he is off to a torrid start. Ho-hum. Another day at the office.
But loyal Twins fans will take more notice here. The fact is that Santana is normally human in the first month or two of the season. He doesn't really heat up until the weather does. Down the stretch, he's akin to a guy named Koufax. Early on, however, he's just another good pitcher.
As far as I can tell, the turning point is usually June 1st. After that, he's untouchable. I have only researched his W-L totals as a starter; perhaps someone here can look more deeply into all his pitching stats before and after June 1st to see if the rest of the numbers support my theory. Anyway, here's his record before and after June 1st for the last 4 seasons:
Year April-May June-September Full Season
2003 2-1(bullpen) 10-2 12-3
2004 2-3 18-3(!) 20-6
2005 6-2 10-5 16-7
2006 4-4 15-2 19-6
First of all, Johan got absolutely no run support in the second half of the '05 season. I think we'll all agree that he could easily have picked up 4 or 5 more wins with even a semi-productive lineup. Even without the support in 2005, he has averaged 12 wins a year after May. If you take only the last 3 years (once he became the Man-tana), he has averaged 14 wins after May. Again, that's with no support in '05. What do I take from this? Well, with our lineup as it is today, I think you can count on 14 or 15 wins for Johan from June through September as long as he stays healthy.
Santana is currently 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA. So far this April, he's been pitching like he usually does later in the year. Now the fun part... The way I figure it, if Santana wins 3 more games before June 1st (giving him 6 wins), he'll most likely win 20+ this season.
A month ago in Ubelmann's Community Projection for Santana, some people were guessing 22-23 wins for Johan. I believe someone even suggested the possibility of 25. At the time, I dismissed the idea because "it's impossible to win 25 in today's game." Right now, I'm not so sure. Certainly the only one who could do it is Santana. But a pitcher only gets 33 or 34 starts a year if healthy. Winning 25 would mean NOT WINNING only 8 or 9 games all season long. However, if Santana has 8+ wins on June 1st, it will be within reach.
It might not happen this year, but if does win 25, I believe he will win the AL MVP. He will also immediately enter the discussion of the very best south paws ever to play the game. I for one will be trying like crazy to make it to every home start of his this year. He might be embarking on a season for the ages.