During the first two months of the MLB season, one starting pitcher in the American League has stood out among the rest. His name is Ervin Santana.
Santana, 34, has been around the majors for more than a decade. However, he has never had a season quite like the one he is having this year. Currently with the Minnesota Twins, he previously had stints with the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.
This season, Santana has tossed two complete-game shutouts. One of those games occurred during his most recent start, which was on Tuesday night at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. Santana went nine innings and did not allow a run while only surrendering two hits. He gave up just two walks and struck out six Orioles. This stellar performance lowered his ERA to 1.80 on the season.
As far as the major pitching categories go, Santana leads the American League in almost all of them. His 1.80 ERA is the lowest in the AL. It is also the best ERA in the MLB among starting pitchers. Santana is tied with Houston Astros starter Dallas Keuchel for the most wins in the AL with seven. Right now, Keuchel’s stats are the closest to Santana’s. He has an ERA of 1.84. Keuchel was recently placed on the disabled list because of a pinched nerve in his neck, but is expected to return on Saturday when the Astros host the Orioles.
Even though Santana is having a Cy Young caliber season, he does not have that many strikeouts. He only has 50 strikeouts on the season, which is not even close to the most in the AL. To put it in perspective, Sale is currently the AL strikeouts leader with 101. That is over 50 more than Santana has. This actually makes Santana’s great year even more improbable. He is having a fantastic season without striking out a lot of guys. Santana has been able to go deep into games because he has kept his pitch count low. He has pitched 70 innings so far this season. That is second in the AL behind Sale, who has pitched 73 innings.
Just like Santana, the Twins themselves have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball so far this season. They are 25-18 and currently hold a two-game lead over the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central. Santana’s dominance is one of the reasons that the Twins have exceeded expectations this year. He has pitched like a true ace through the first few months of the 2017 season.
It looks like Santana is in a three-way race with Keuchel and Sale for the AL Cy Young Award. There is still plenty of season to be played, but if these three starting pitchers keep it up, then it should be a very interesting competition to see who gets the award.