So while helping Scott with his prospect and two-start pitcher questions over the weekend, I got a lot of questions for the best spot starter on Sunday. I told everyone Hector Santiago followed closely by the debut of Jose Alvarez. Score one for me! I decided to write my pitcher profile on one of those guys, and since Alvarez only came up for one start (he’s already back in AAA), I went with Santiago. Quick tangent – how unfair is that Tigers rotation? Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello (who everyone needs to pick up – Ks are for real – looks like it’s all together now and he’s only 24), then Drew Smyly who should become a starter one day soon, and now Alvarez. Yikes.
Anyway, Santiago has been yo-yoed in and out of the rotation, and after Jake Peavy fell to injury yet again, Santiago should remain in the starting staff for at least the next month if not longer. He’s been better as a starter than out of the bullpen this year, and has over a K per 9 this season. There’s a lot of things to like with Santiago, so I broke down his start yesterday afternoon against the Athletics to monitor his repertoire and what to expect while he’s in the White Sox rotation.
First Inning: Santiago’s first pitch is a 91 MPH fastball inside, 1-0 to Coco Crisp. Santiago then paints the inside corner at the knees with the heater, then a change-up is perfectly placed on the outside corner at 83 MPH, 1-2. Santiago stays with the change at 82 MPH, it just dies from knee high to ankle high, and gets Crisp to swing-and-miss to start the game. That change-up was filthy. Jed Lowrie gets a fastball he misses, 0-1, then Santiago blows another heater by him at 92 MPH, 0-2. The lefty looks fantastic right now. He climbs the ladder way high, 1-2, then another fastball at 93 MPH, a little bit inside but still over the plate, gets a late cut from Lowrie and blows him away, 2 Ks to start the game. Santiago has an odd delivery, he starts his wind-up, then just explodes to the plate, almost like he has two different speeds to his motion. Might be a hint of deception to hitters there. He starts Yoenis Cespedes with a fastball outside, then another sinking heater at 94 MPH gets a solid inside-out swing for a single to right field. Wasn’t a bad pitch, tip your hat to Cespedes there. The first pitch to Josh Donaldson is a fastball in the top of the zone, then Santiago misses low although it looked good to me, 1-1. Santiago misses outside with the change, then again outside off-speed, then misses low and inside with the fastball for a walk. So runners on 1st and 2nd, two outs, and up is Nate Freiman who takes a fastball for a strike, then another at 93, 0-2, then pounds it inside and high, 1-2. Freiman fouls one off, and out comes Tyler Flowers for a quick chat as that foul tip hit his free hand. Ouch. Santiago misses outside with the change, then blows Freiman away with a fastball right on the inner high corner, swing-and-miss to strike out the side.
Second Inning: Still a scoreless game, Santiago paints the outside corner to Chris Young with a fastball, then gets a change-up in there, 0-2. He misses low with a 74 MPH screwball, his first on the day, 1-2. You don’t see almost any pitchers throw that, but it mimicked a curveball that time. He misses low with another change, 2-2, a fastball is fouled out of play, then Santiago barely misses the bottom black fo the zone with the fastball, full count. Santiago goes back to the change, in a great location but it dips barely too low for a walk. Good eye there by Young. So up now is Josh Reddick who takes ball one inside, then a change-up goes too low and outside, 2-0. Santiago goes with a change-up, Reddick has a good rip but is too far in front and fouls it off, 2-1. Nice decision there, a fastball might’ve gotten an extra base hit. Another pitch is high, and Young takes off and is thrown out trying to steal second. And wow, Young looked safe there. Good benefit of a call for Santiago, who gets another foul by Reddick to get the count full, then another is fouled but it stays in play, two outs. Two outs, no one on, and Santiago throws a change to Derek Norris, 1-0, then gets a swing-and-miss on a fastball at 95 MPH, 1-1, then Santiago misses low with the heater, this time at 96 (!), 2-1. Santiago is again low, 3-1, and takes a step off the mound to regroup. He blows a fastball by Norris that would’ve been high, 3-2, then a fastball at 94 MPH is hit opposite field fairly well but right to Alex Rios to end the inning, but Santiago is already at 40 pitches.
Third Inning: Santiago rubs some dirt on his hand before throwing a fastball for a strike to Adam Rosales, then a 77 MPH screwball that stayed a little high in the zone gets hit decently to third, but Conor Gillaspie fields it easily and throws him out, one down. Back to the top of the order, and the first pitch to Crisp is a change-up that hung a tad right down the middle, and Crisp blasts it for a homer. Just like that it’s 1-0. The broadcast called that a hanging screwball, I thought it looked like a hanging change, but whatever. So Santiago pounds the inside of the zone twice in a row with heaters to Lowrie, 0-2, then misses high, then pounds it inside at 95 MPH, 2-2. A change-up low gets a defensive swing to foul it off, then another is fouled back, then a slow 78 MPH curveball that time gets a weak ground ball out to second, two down. Santiago misses outside to Santiago, then a perfect change-up on the outside low corner makes it 1-1, but then a fastball right down the middle is laced hard into left for a single. Cespedes with two hard-hit singles, and up is Donaldson with two outs. The first pitch is another solid change-up with good movement in the zone, 0-1, then another screwball high is hit hard to Gillaspie, but it’s fielded on the dive and Donaldson is thrown out to end the inning on a nice defensive play.
Fourth Inning: After a Flowers homer, it’s 1-1 now and Santiago misses low to Freiman, 1-0. A fastball on the hands is hit very lazily to dead center for a quick first out. A fastball gets ahead of Young 0-1, then another is inside, then yet another heater blows Young away, 1-2. A mini-slider it looked like that time at 80 MPH gets an easy pop up right to Alexei Ramirez for the second out. Santiago with two quick outs misses low to Reddick, then gets the outside corner, then the 1-1 is curveball that got too much of the plate Reddick pounds for a single between first and second for a single. So from the stretch, Santiago gets a fastball in there to Norris, then another, then one is fouled, before a fastball climbs the ladder, now 1-2. Santiago goes to the change and Norris gets under it for a weak pop up that Rios nabs on the run charging in to end the inning.
Fifth Inning: Santiago gets two runs of support and now protects a 3-1 lead. He starts Rosales with a big sweeping curveball that goes too far inside, 1-0, then a change-up gets fouled back and it stays in the park just long enough for Flowers to catch it against the screen, one down. Now at 73 pitches, Santiago has his pitch count more manageable and starts Crisp with a 93 MPH fastball that’s fouled off, 0-1. Good thing he didn’t start with a change-up again like on the homer! Next pitch is another 93 MPH fastball in there, 0-2, then a change-up way outside, 1-2. Santiago dials up a curveball that hung a tad and didn’t drop low enough that Crisp lines hard but right to Viciedo for the second out. Two down pretty quick and Santiago misses inside with the change-up, then gets a called strike on the outside corner, 1-1 to Lowrie. A change-up goes in the dirt, 2-1, then a fastball is fouled out of play, then the 2-2 curveball is grounded to the gap past Gillaspie, but he dives and makes an unreal play, hops up and throws Lowrie out by a half step. What a play! Probably was a web gem…
Sixth Inning: Still 3-1 Sox, Santiago misses outside with the heater to Cespedes, then a cutter doesn’t get the call outside, then again way too high, and Santiago is down 3-0 on a guy who is 2-2 today. He gets a fastball over, then a foul out of play to fight it back full, then paints the inside black, perfect pitch, with a 95 MPH fastball for a backwards K. Dirty. Nice way to fight back from down 3-0. Santiago misses high to Donaldson then is in there 1-1, then barely low, 2-1. That one looked good though. Santiago gets the call this time, 2-2, then a screwball that stayed outside gets a weak swing and a weak groundout, two down. First pitch to Freiman is outside then one fouled off, 1-1, then a nasty change-up, one of his best on the day, dies on the outside corner and gets a bad swing-and-miss, 1-2. Another is fouled off, then he paints that inside corner, just like he did to Cespedes, with 95 MPH cheese and gets his 5th K looking.
Seventh Inning: At 98 pitches, Santiago starts Young with a strike then a second fastball gets a foul back, 0-2. Another fastball at 93 MPH blows Young away for a quick 3-pitch strikeout. Nasty. So up now is Reddick, who gets a fastball that looked good but is called outside, then another this time is definitely outside, 2-0. A fastball is in there, 2-1, then one fouled back, 2-2. A fastball is way low and outside at 95 MPH, 3-2, the velocity is still there but that was a bad one. Another fastball is outside for a walk. That will do it for Santiago, who gets the win and a solid outing.
Final Line: W 6.1 IP 107 Pitches (67 Strikes) 4 Hits 3 Walks 1 ER 6 K Gamescore: 62 Gamescore+: 63.2
A great start from Santiago who proved big getting the W for anyone who rolled him out there for a spot start. His high Ks gave him a solid Gamescore+ that was pretty close to his actual Gamescore. All 4 hits were very well struck, but since there were only 4 and most outs were pretty weak, it evened out.
Santiago features both an above-average fastball and change-up, with the former hitting 96 MPH and constinently around 93, and a change-up with great, sharp sink to keep hitters guessing. The secondary stuff never really gelled in this start though. With a cutter, a mini-slider that might’ve been a cutter, a screwball and a curveball, none of the pitches really distinguished themselves in this game. According to Fangraphs, nothing was considered a curveball, and the fact it was indecipherable to his screwball that never really screwed, tells you everything you need to know. Santiago needs to get consistentcy with those pitches, at least with one of them, to have the whole package.
Looking ahead to the White Sox schedule, Santiago gets at Houtson, at Minnesota, and at home vs. the Mets. With that slate coming up, I think Santiago is a must own in all leagues. He can pitch deep into games, get Ks, and yes the White Sox offense is struggling, but I think can win two of the three pretty easily. Santiago has some deception hitters might adjust to with an acceleration halfway into his delivery, but for the short-term during the rest of this month, he’ll be great.