The Thursday Takeaway
The Mets have $35 million committed to Jason Bay and $55 million owed to Johan Santana over the next two seasons. If the team is to salvage any value from those ill-fated contracts—either internally or via trade—Bay and Santana must regain their prowess soon. And while Bay’s quiet, 0-for-3 start was nothing to write home about, Santana’s 2012 debut opened some eyes.

Now 33 and coming off a lost season, Santana no longer throws in the mid-90s. His first pitch on Thursday was an 87 mph fastball, and he sat in the upper-80s throughout the afternoon, occasionally reaching back for 90-91. But Santana also proved that he could be effective without premium velocity, tossing five scoreless innings, fanning five and walking two to pave the way for the Mets’ 1-0 win.

The Braves were one of the worst teams in the majors against left-handed pitching last season—combining for a lowly .228/.290/.352 triple slash that represented the second-worst OPS in the league—and general manager Frank Wren did little to bolster his offense this past winter. With that in mind, perhaps Santana’s encouraging effort should be taken with a grain of salt. But for a Mets fan base used to crossing its fingers and expecting the worst, Thursday’s opener provided a much-needed glimmer of hope.

What to Watch for on Friday

  • If Albert Pujols were handpicking a pitcher to be on the mound for his first game with the Angels, Bruce Chen might have been at the top of his list. Pujols is 3-for-8 with two home runs and three walks in 11 career plate appearances against Chen. That amounts to a 1.795 OPS—his best mark versus any active starting pitcher in baseball (min. 10 PAs).
  • Friday’s marquee pitching ledger pits CC Sabathia against James Shields at 3:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. Every season is replete with outstanding duels, but the one produced by those two pitchers on July 10 at Yankee Stadium was 2011’s best. The bullpens took the night off as Sabathia and Shields both worked complete games, surrendering just four hits and a walk each. The difference? A throwing error by Shields himself that pushed the game’s only run across in the bottom of the seventh.
  • Just as Santana made a triumphant return on Thursday, Buster Posey—who has successfully recovered from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered last May—will try to get back into the swing of things on Friday. Manager Bruce Bochy expects Posey to catch all three games of this weekend’s series in Arizona, an important step in determining how many games he’ll be able handle behind the plate this season.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
New title to your daily entry Dan?
Stay tuned for an announcement about this very soon.
As an (un)official Johan Santana fan, I'm glad he is back on the mound and effective. Santana has never shown a large platoon split, owing to his changeup, so maybe that salt doesn't need to be used too liberally.
I remember that Shields-Sabbathia game. Robinson Cano has more than his share of amazing gifts, but stealing home isn't one of them. Inexplicably, and I believe there were two outs at the time, but don't quote me, Shields stepped back and awkwardly tried to pick Cano off third. 1-0 That said, even as a Yankee fan, Sabbathia is rarely that good and James Shields is nails. I remember three or four years ago he got walloped to the tune of 11 earned in 3 or 4 and change at Yankee Stadium...seems like he hasn't given up and earned run against them since. I'm so looking forward to this season, win or lose, it's going to be a blast. Play Ball!...
I've long thought BP could use a "non-obvious news and notes of immediate interest" type feature. If that's what this is becoming, thumbs up.
I'm watching the Sabathia/Shields match up as I read this article, and there has beens tons of offense and lots of home runs.

You NEVER know what is going to happen in baseball. Gotta love it.

As Yogi allegedly said, predictions are hard, especially about the future.
Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta throws seven shutout innings for the Orioles. Yep.
And further meanwhile, Pujols went 0-3 against Chen. Oops.

Your column is entertaining, but I hope you have really thick skin, because you're likely to be wrong a lot.

As Jos Garagiola wrote, Baseball is a Funny game.
Being wrong is an integral part of making predictions—and you're more than welcome to let me know! I just hope I'm right often enough to keep it entertaining.

And, to anyone who picked Pujols and is now a game behind in Beat the Streak because of me, feel free to vent here.