Big changes brewing: A trade happened yesterday. The Royals acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels for Brandon Sisk and 1 Million dollars. Many Royals fans are excited about the trade and being able to acquire a picture of Santy's talent. Some are expressing concern over what they consider to be a bad year by him last year.
I wasn't sure what to think of the trade until I talked to the Royals pitching coach, Dave Eiland. Eily said, "Anytime you can get a pitcher with Ervy's talent, you have to do it. He might have struggled a bit last year, but we are excited at the prospect of being able to work with his great abilities. We think we have identified a flaw in his release point that can easily be corrected."
Davey went on to explain to me that Santy was not keeping a consistent release point on his pitches, thus possibly tipping his pitches. "We want to get Ervy's release point at a consistent 81 degrees, no matter his pitch. Last year, we identified he was varying his release point by a degree or two depending on if he was throwing a fastball or curve."
This intrigued me, so I went out to the stadium with the Royals videographer and Eily to see for myself. I threw 50 pitches, alternating between fastball, curve, and changeup. (Not that my curve really curves, or my changeup is any kind of a change, but I was trying.) I was focusing on keeping a consistent release point and I thought I was doing a good job. However, the review in the video room was quite humbling. When reviewing the video Davey pointed out that my fastball release point was a consistent 79.5 degrees, while my curve was at 80 degrees, and my changeup was right around 78 degrees.
"This might not seem like a lot," Eily explained, "but a big league hitter would eat you alive. With you tipping your pitches like that you would not last long in the majors."
This just reinforced how great of athletes big league players are. What seems like an insignificant change can mean the difference between a long career in the majors and a minor-league journeyman. Keep that in mind when watching games next year. I will be hopeful that Santy can be fixed and go on to pitch the best ball of his career. With a great eye like Davey has, this seems like a good trade.
I know that some of you have expressed concern about the trade and bring up arcane and incomprehensible stats like WHIP, BABIP, and K/BB rates. While there might be some limited merit in those, the human aspect of the game can't be diminished. A good scout watches a guy pitch and just knows in his gut the pitcher can get big league hitters out. I trust the guts of the Royals scouts. They have assured me that Ervy passes the gut test. Plus, those new stats can make you lose site of the most important stat of all, and that is the W. Santy had 17 wins three years ago, and if you can get that pitcher back, adding 17 wins to the Royals this year would have pushed them into playoff contention.
On a side note, while this is a good trade, I was sad to see Sisky go. I had limited contact with him, but the times I would run into him it was a treat. One of the good guys in baseball. So, good luck to you Brandy and I hope to run into you in the future.