It has been a rough couple of games for Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos. Coming in to play Tuesday, Santos is responsible for 2 Blown Saves, 3 hits, 4 Walks, 4 Earned Runs and a 15.43 ERA. Although his velocity is dialed up to his 2011 totals, his location has let him down the past few days.
Santos is a pitcher that has relied heavily on 2 pitches, the Slider and his mid 90′s 4 Seam Fastball. The variance between the 2 pitches can at times be as much as 10 MPH difference in velocity which in most cases is enough to make some of the most accomplished hitters look foolish at the dish and that’s before you factor in the movement.
A Slider is essentially a hard Curveball, a breaking pitch that’s designed to look like a Fastball out of the pitchers hand. The fact that as a pitcher, you sacrifice location for velocity makes the Slider one of the hardest pitches to control. The most effective Sliders are ones that break outside of the plate (preferably under the strike zone), leaving the hitter swinging at a pitch that would have ended up a ball if they managed to lay off. Like a Curveball, a pitcher can hang a Slider over the plate normally resulting in a sharply hit pitch.
In the past, Santos has worked off of his Slider, using it to get ahead in the count. Scouts have tuned in to this and are aware of that early on, Santos is having a hard time locating the pitch. Teams have started laying off the first pitch, making Santos throw a strike before offering. This has resulted in Santos falling behind in the count and having to use the Fastball to get back, luckily for him, the Fastball is in the mid to upper 90′s and hitters can have a hard time catching up to it. That being said, Major League hitters (when knowing there going to get a Fastball) can sit on the pitch and drive it. Although hard, Santos’ Fastball lacks movement creating a dangerous spot for the Righty when he falls behind in the count.
Recently, the former Shortstop has worked a 2 Seam Fastball (with movement) and Change up in to his repertoire on the mound which should help keep opposing hitter guessing. Still relying on the Fastball, Santos has used the Changeup when ahead in the count however he has had a hard time locating the pitch (6 balls, 3 strikes – all on Foul’s and 1 hit). As for his 4th pitch, the 2 Seam Fastball has resulted in a pair of pitches that have missed the plate. Keep in mind that this is after 3 appearances on the season… Sample size.
As it stand’s, Santos is one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the game with over 30 Saves under his belt in 2+ years of MLB service. Although he hasn’t faced much adversity as a Closer, he should be able to overcome this rough patch and learn from it.
Take a look at some of Serg’s highlights from the 2011 season.