This ‘N That

Ervin Santana pitching for Rancho Cucamonga in July 2003.

Just checking in …

I’m going to be rather scarce in the next few days trying to get the Tempe photos processed.  The photos from Day 1 of the trip (July 20) will be on-line tonight in the Digital Photo Gallery.  Two more games to go, July 21 and July 22.

At the same time, I’m working with my mortgage lender and a property broker in Florida on a possible transaction next month.  My wife and I have long-range plans to retire and move to somewhere in the Cape Canaveral area, which is known for obvious reasons as the "Space Coast."  We’ll be flying out for a couple days in mid-September to look at properties.

I’ve noticed on some fan boards that certain people are trying to dismiss Ervin Santana as just another Ramon Ortiz, as usual without bothering to do their homework.  So I’ll do it for them.

I’ve preached many times that PCL stats have to be taken in context because of the many high-altitude ballparks.  You can’t just look at home/away splits.  Even though Salt Lake is at 4,500 feet altitude, there are other notoriously hitter-friendly parks — in particular, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson, and Albuquerque.

So far in his Triple-A assignment, Ervin has made two home starts and three on the road — but one of those road starts was at Albuquerque, at an elevation of 5,300 feet.

Here’s what you get when you combine the three high-altitude starts (two at Salt Lake, one at Albuquerque) and compare them to the two "normal" elevation starts (one at Sacramento, one at Round Rock).

In the high-altitude parks, Ervin has a 7.36 ERA in 18 1/3 innings, giving up 15 runs on 31 hits including three homers.  His SO:BB ratio is 16:6, which isn’t bad especially when you consider he’s whiffing batters at a rate of 7.8 per 9 IP.

In the "normal" parks, Ervin has a 1.93 ERA in 14 IP, giving up three runs on 8 hits including one homer.  His SO:BB ratio is 16:4, or 10.3 Ks per 9 IP.

Hmmm …

I didn’t see much value in sending him to Triple-A for this reason.  The high-altitude parks would distort his numbers, and he’d dominate in the "normal" parks because his stuff is better than Triple-A.

On the other hand, it was clear his lackluster performance in the majors was hurting the ballclub, so he had to come out of the rotation.  Going to the bullpen wouldn’t do him much good, because right now he’s in that #6 starter role occupied most of the year by Joe Saunders.  (Let’s not forget that the high-altitude parks distorted Joe’s Triple-A numbers too.)

So all sending him to Triple-A would accomplish is taking him out of a death spiral.  Going to Salt Lake is the equivalent of giving a child a "time out."  Ervin needed a mental breather, and the chance to work on his stuff without the pressure of a pennant race (well, a major league pennant race — the Bees are in their own playoff hunt).

In any case, my point is not to get all hysterical when Ervin gets lit up at Salt Lake or other high-altitude parks.  Look past the runs and hits to see (1) where he’s pitching, and (2) what are his SO:BB ratios.  That’ll tell you more about how he’s progressing.

Juan Rivera was supposed to start a rehab stint tonight at Rancho Cucamonga, while Howie Kendrick has moved on to Salt Lake to continue his rehab.  Hopefully the Angels can survive the rest of the season without any more catastrophic injuries, but that isn’t likely.  They’ll be in a world of hurt if Vlad Guerrero goes down.

Finally, watch the clock through Wednesday, August 15.  That’s the deadline for major league clubs to sign their 2007 draft picks.  This is a new wrinkle in the annual draft.  Under the old rules, high school graduates and college junior/seniors could be signed until they attended school.  Junior college players could go to school and were still eligible until one week before the next draft, hence the phrase "draft-and-follow."

But no more hanky-panky.  It’s much more straightforward now — sign by August 15 or go back into the draft next year and hope you don’t hurt yourself in the mean time.

I guess this means college graduates who don’t sign have no choice but to go to independent ball.

The Angels are hoping to snag third-round pick RHP Matt Harvey, who would have gone in the first round except his advisor is Scott Boras. But the Angels have had good luck in the past negotiating with Boras clients, e.g. Chris Bootcheck and Jered Weaver, so I’m optimistic.


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