Many laughed last week when I reported that right-hander Ervin Santana planned to seek more than $100 million in free agency.
Maybe Santana will hit that number, maybe he won’t. But his agents at Proformance have prepared a thick, glossy binder, full of statistical comparisons, to make Santana’s case.
Two of those agents, Bean Stringfellow and Joe White, showed me their work at the general managers’ meetings Monday. And, yes, they believe Santana is worth more than $100 million.
Exhibit A in Proformance’s presentation is a comparison of Santana and Zack Greinke in the three seasons before they reached free agency.
Greinke had a 3.83 ERA in that period, a 106 ERA-plus and a ratio of 1.215 walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP). Santana, in a comparable number of innings, had a 3.85 ERA, a 101 ERA-plus and 1.208 WHIP.
Among the differences: Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award in the season before the comparison began and had better strikeout and strikeout-to-walk ratios during the three-year period. But if Greinke merited a six-year, $147 million contract in free agency, with the chance to opt out after the third year …
You get the idea.
Santana’s agents also produced a number of other compelling numbers, including some based on Game Score, a metric devised by Bill James to determine the strength of a pitcher in any particular game.
By that measure, Santana was tied with Yu Darvish, Jordan Zimmermann and Max Scherzer for the eighth-highest total of strong or dominant starts in the majors last season, and the 20th highest over the past three years.
Over the past three years, Santana also graded out well on measures of durability, keeping runners off base and pitching deep into games.
In addition, the agents produced data from Inside Edge, a service used by major league clubs, to demonstrate Santana’s quality at-bat percentage and pitch effectiveness.
The book even addresses two of the biggest questions on Santana — his high home run rates and the reported partial UCL tear in his right elbow.
Santana’s home run rate in recent seasons actually has been consistent, if above-average, with the exception of 2012, when he allowed a career-high 39 homers in 178 innings.
Last season was more typical — Santana allowed 26 homers in 211 innings, the 15th-highest rate among the 37 American League pitchers who pitched at least 162 innings. And he still finished with a career-best 3.24 ERA.
As for the condition of his arm, Santana was examined independently by Dr. James Andrews and had MRIs performed on both his elbow and shoulder on Oct. 28, according to the agents’ presentation.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2009 that Santana had a sprained UCL. The book quotes Andrews as saying, “He doesn’t need any further treatment for his right elbow partial UCL tear, as on (the) MRI today it appears that it has completely healed.”
Santana’s last trip to the DL ended on July 3, 2009. Since then, only Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, James Shields and Clayton Kershaw have thrown more innings without logging DL time.