Is Johan Santana good? No, he’s better than good. He’s great.
He holds a career mark of 117–55 with an ERA of 3.12. He is 8–4 with an ERA of 3.29 in 13 starts here in 2009. That being said, I have been hearing a lot of talk this season about facts that made little to no sense to me. After Zach Grienke came out of the gates flying, the debate was on. At least it was for a little while.
Grienke, Kansas City’s first round pick in 2002, is now 25 and started the 2009 campaign by posting a 5-0 record with a 0.50 ERA in the first month of the season. He also managed two complete games in April and then another three in May.
On June the 15th, with Grienke sitting with an 8-2 record with an ERA under two, who is better?
Well here is my problem with the "who is the best" debate that rages on. Not enough people are talking about Roy Halladay, who I believe to be superior to both Grienke and Santana.
Please don’t take this to the extreme and start with the non-sense that some of you are thinking. I am not saying Santana isn’t great. I am not saying that Grienke isn’t showing he has the kind of special talent to be a top-flight pitcher.
What I am saying is, and let me say this very clearly, Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball.
Before I get too far into the discussion, I am removing Grienke from the discussion. Why you ask? Simply because as good as he has been over the last two and a half months, I am talking about guys that not only do this night in and night out, but year in and year out.
So let me concede all the arguments that the Santana fans are going to come up with straight away.
If we compare the career numbers, Santana leads Halladay in winnings percentage, earned run average and WHIP.
Seems like a pretty open and shut case. Especially when you then compare some other stats:
I present all these numbers because I was trying figure out the fairest way to compare these two pitchers.
Other than complete games where Halladay is dominate (completing 43 starts in his 11-year career, compared to only nine by Santana in his 10 years in the big leagues), it looks like a forgone conclusion that anyone arguing on Docs' behalf would be barking up the wrong tree.
If this were the cause, there would have been no reason to write all of this. I would be simply confirming what is generally accepted as truth and wasting your time. Now that wouldn’t be very nice now would it?
So I ask you what’s wrong with these numbers? Why don’t they produce a definitive answer to “who is the best pitcher baseball?”
My answer to you is now clear. All you need to do is look into the schedule. Roy Halladay plays in the gold standard of baseball division in the American League East. The way the schedule is drafted each year, the Blue Jays play 72 games against the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and O’s.
You don’t think the AL East is an absolute beast? They have accounted for 10 of the 14 wild card winners since the divisions were realigned in 1994. That includes 1994 when there were no playoffs and technically would’ve been won by the Indians based on the day the strike was called. So you 10 of 13 or 77 percent of all wild cards since its inception has been out of the American League East.
Now with that in mind, I am not ready to discount the talent of Johan Santana, but I would say that the numbers that Roy Halladay has been posting are against better line-ups year in and year out.
Whether it’s the American League Central, where the Twins were the dominate team partially because of Santana, and partially because of the inconsistency of the division, or the National League where Johan gets a free out every trip through the order with the opposing pitcher, it’s easy to see where some of those numbers could’ve been inflated.
It would be unfair of me to simply draw a conclusion.
Although the lead up seems a little long, this isn’t exactly easy to prove. So let us look at the numbers in his career vs. the AL East for Roy Halladay and Johan Santana.
Now remember Johan’s career winning percentage against all opponents is .680, his ERA is 3.12 and his WHIP is a filthy 1.108. Halladay on the other hand has a .678 winnings percentage, an ERA of 3.45 and a WHIP of 1.199.
What does this tell me? Well, both players have an inflated WHIP, which is to be expected in the AL East, who is notorious for working counts and taking a ton of walks. Beyond that, Halladay’s winnings percentage is slightly down (.004) and his ERA is inflated but only marginally (0.06).
Santana on the other hand has his winnings Percentage fall close to 100 points (.099) vs. his career average and his ERA jumps 0.78 over his career average when he faces the AL East.
With their respect, each player's per-nine averages both matchup with Roy's career averages, where Johan sees his hits per nine jump by over one (1.2) and his K’s per nine up 0.8.
Other than those, with the two stats that I pointed out earlier, both pitchers are fairly consistent across the board. Although Santana does strike out more batters per nine, it’s the ability to get ground balls and keep pitch counts down that gives Halladay the opportunity to work deeper into baseball games.
In one additional start this year, Doc has throw 21 innings more than Johan this season.
What we have in this debate when you control for the teams and talent played against (at least as much as is possible in this situation) is two pitchers that are very good against the best offensive division in baseball.
The difference is that Johan is very good, but not as dominate against the rest of the competition he faces. On the other hand, Roy Halladay is able to maintain his dominance and produce the same results against any lineup.
Everyone is constantly impressed with Johan’s dominance, but if you look at his record and ERA against a higher level of competition, it suffers noticeably. Even though he produces against the National League East, it’s clear by his 18-13 record he doesn’t have the ability to go to the next level.
To further confirm Johan’s inability to gear up to face better teams, look no further than his playoff record of 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.324 WHIP.
On the other hand, the only scenario we would have seen the Doctor in where he would have to step his game up to operate is within his own division. He is able to elevate his game enough to produce almost identical stats whether it be ERA, WHIP, winnings percentage or per nine stats.
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Start in and start out Doc Halladay consistently beats the best.
Maybe I don’t have the street cred to be saying these things, so let me pass it over to a guy that would know.
"Everyone talks about the great pitchers in the game. They need to start talking about (Roy) Halladay because he's as good as they come." -New York Yankees Captain Derek Jeter
If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe him.