New York Mets: Will Johan Santana Ever be the Same Again?

Shale BriskinContributor IIISeptember 19, 2011

New York Mets: Will Johan Santana Ever be the Same Again?

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    When the 2011 season began, the Mets were expecting Johan Santana to be ready by the start of the second half.

    However, as the months went on, Santana's return kept getting delayed. By the middle of September, it was clear that Santana was not going to be pitching at all during the 2011 season. Being that Santana is currently the Mets' highest paid player, it's very unfortunate that the team could not do much with him.

    Santana now has two years and $49.5 million combined left on his contract, plus an additional club option for 2014. Being that the Mets' current rotation has been rather inconsistent in the past few years, it's critical that Santana is healthy and pitches well for the next two seasons for the Mets to have any chance of contending.

    Prior to the 2009 season, Santana was one of the best pitchers in baseball and had a pretty good track record in regards to his health. However, since 2009, Santana has had various injuries and has not performed as well as he usually has.

    In 2012, Santana could return and pitch like he did during his two Cy Young seasons that he had as a member of the Twins. However, at the rate of his current track record, Santana could also have more injuries and not pitch as well as the Mets expect him to. Hopefully, for the sake of the Mets, their fans, and Santana himself, he can have a great comeback season in 2012.

The Pros

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    Up until 2011, Santana had made at least 25 starts per season, ever since he became a full-time starter in 2004. He has also averaged over 211 strikeouts per season in that span. In five of those seven years, Santana had an ERA under 3.00.

    Many pitchers have come back healthy and with arms stronger than ever before, following surgery. With this being said, Santana could get back to pitching like he used to and be the dominant ace the Mets have paid him to be.

    The Mets' 2011 rotation has been inconsistent throughout the entire season. If Santana does well with his offseason workout schedule, does not have any setbacks and has a good spring training, it's definitely possible that Santana can have a great bounce-back season in 2012. Again, the most important thing for Santana to do is stay healthy.

The Cons

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    On the other hand, Santana's recent history of injuries could continue for the rest of his career. If he suffers a setback, it could delay his return even further.

    Santana also has not pitched as well in 2009 and 2010, and this downward trend could continue for the next two years. By the start of the 2012 season, he will be 33 years old and this is about the time that pitchers start to decline.

    Santana's velocity could drop as well, which definitely would not be a good sign for him. If he loses velocity and command on his fastball, the strikeouts will decrease and the walks will increase, all of which would not be good for him and the Mets.

The Verdict

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    While the debate as to whether Santana's 2012 season will be plagued with injuries or not could go either way, it is a safer bet to believe that Santana will not pitch like an ace in 2012 and may suffer a noticeable decrease in his velocity and command.

    As the years go by, Santana is only going to get older and his age is going to catch up with his body soon. If the velocity drop is significant, he will have to rely heavily on his control in order to pitch well.

    Santana should not be counted on to save the Mets in 2012, and if anyone believes that he will save the team, they will most likely be quite disappointed next year.

    The Mets' entire rotation has been inconsistent and if they have similar seasons in 2012, even with Santana in the fold, it could be another long season for the team.

    All in all, Santana's 2012 season is mostly dependent on his health and whether he can avoid any more elbow or shoulder injuries. It will also be interesting to see how his velocity and command appear after missing all of 2011.