StaTuesday: Twins ace Santana’s special season

It’s no surprise that Ervin Santana was tabbed to start Tuesday’s wild-card game for the Minnesota Twins. He had one of the best seasons for a Twins pitcher in recent memory.

Santana finished first in the American League in complete games (5) and shutouts (3), second in innings pitched (211 1/3), sixth in ERA (3.28) and WHIP (1.126), seventh in wins (16) and eighth in WAR for pitchers (4.3).

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How rare has it been for a Minnesota starting pitcher to post numbers like that? Well, it’s been since another Santana pitched for the Twins — Johan.

Ervin Santana is the first Twins starter to finish with an ERA of 3.30 or better since 2006, when Johan Santana did it for the third straight season. (note: criteria is having to qualify for the ERA title.)

Since 1961 — when the Twins began playing in Minnesota — this is just the 50th time it has been accomplished. Amazingly, it was done once by a reliever — in 1976, Bill Campbell pitched in 167 2/3 innings with no starts.

Ervin Santana is the 25th to accomplish the feat. Among those who did it multiple times: Bert Blyleven (6), Dave Boswell (3), Mudcat Grant (3), Jim Kaat (6), Jim Perry (4), Johan Santana (3) and Frank Viola (3).

In the expansion/steroid era (we’ll call it 1991), a Twins pitcher has had an ERA of 3.30 or lower just eight times.

PITCHER YEAR ERA IP
Scott Erickson 1991 3.18 204
Kevin Tapani 1991 2.99 244
John Smiley 1992 3.21 241
Joe Mays 2001 3.16 233.2
Johan Santana 2004 2.61 228.0
Johan Santana 2005 2.87 231.2
Johan Santana 2006 2.77 233.2
Ervin Santana 2017 3.28 211.1

Even more impressive this year was Ervin Santana’s WHIP (walks + hits / innings pitched). Among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, Santana was just the 10th Twins pitcher to have a 1.126 WHIP or  better in Minnesota history. Overall, it was the 19th time to occur.

In addition, his .225 opponent batting average was eighth-best among the 19 — three of the top eight occurred in the 1960s, including one in 1968, which has been dubbed the year of the pitcher (only one American League player hit above .300 that season — Carl Yastrzemski at .301).

Only the Santanas — Johan and Ervin — have posted WHIPs as good as 1.126 since 1993.

PITCHER YEAR WHIP OBA
Jim Perry 1965 1.127 .232
Dave Boswell 1966 1.093 .197
Jim Perry 1966 1.096 .222
Jim Kaat 1966 1.070 .235
Dean Chance 1967 1.110 .229
Jim Merritt 1967 0.993 .230
Jim Kaat 1968 1.115 .243
Jim Merritt 1968 1.087 .232
Dean Chance 1968 0.983 .211
Bert Blyleven 1972 1.100 .233
Bert Blyleven 1973 1.117 .242
Bert Blyleven 1975 1.099 .219
Kevin Tapani 1991 1.086 .245
John Smiley 1992 1.120 .231
Johan Santana 2004 0.921 .192
Johan Santana 2005 0.971 .210
Johan Santana 2006 0.997 .216
Johan Santana 2007 1.073 .225
Ervin Santana 2017 1.126 .225

No matter what happens Tuesday, 2017 was definitely a special season for Ervin Santana and Twins pitching history.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow, Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns