Johan Santana, Mets' Struggles Have September Written All Over Them

Jason BurkeCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets looks on against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Seven-game winning streaks are not commonplace in most sports—so it is hard to fault a team who loses for the first time in its last eight tries and still has sole possession of first place.

Nevertheless, the Mets' loss is more of a concern; not just because it was a loss, or that it happened against the hated Atlanta Braves.

The concern is a strange occurrence that seems to be taking place every fifth start.

Johan Santana's first seven starts are taking him into territory that has been previously reserved for Tom Seaver and the young Dwight Gooden. His stat line is as follows:

W   L   ERA   IP   SO   BB   R   ER   HR   WHIP   BAA   K/9

4    2  0.78   46   60    13   8    4    2     0.96   .185   11.74

As of May 12, Santana is first in the National League in ERA and strikeouts, second in WHIP and batting average against, and in the top 10 in innings pitched and wins.

Despite the dominance, the Mets are only 4-3 in Santana's first seven starts—one game above .500 for a pitcher who doesn't allow a whole earned run per start.

In normal circumstances, aces usually get a little luck to get them along. That is usually the difference between good and great in any sport, and most aces combine talent and luck to stand out.

But every five starts, the Mets do not give Santana the same breaks. Last year, he earned his 16 victories despite a shoddy bullpen that blew seven leads for him. This year, he can't get help from the offense, defense, or the bullpen.

You want proof?

The Mets' offense has been predictably up and down like seasons past. They score early and in bunches, much the same way they have during the winning streak.

Through 31 games, the offense has scored 154 times, which means they produce 4.96 runs per game.

Contrast that to the 15 runs through the first seven starts for Johan Santana, and the Mets actually score 2.14 runs per for him.

Need more perspective?

Take away the Santana games, and the Mets have scored 6.04 runs per game.

Don't think that the Mets aren't aware every time he steps on the mound. Don't think they don't read about it in the papers.

Don't think it isn't the same thing that comes to greet them every September, when the games mean a little more, and the grips on the bat get a little tighter.

Maybe the first step to exorcising September's ghosts is getting over whatever haunts Santana.