Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 5, 2008
BASEBALL: Making An Entrance

Yesterday's start by Johan Santana reversed his usual pattern; whereas he has thus far, except for his beating at the hands of the Brewers, basically had stretches of dominance interrupted only by too-frequent home runs, yesterday he was laboring with a lot of men on base but muddled through to allow just a single run and leave with a lead the bullpen then gave away.

Now that we are 7 starts in to the Johan Santana Era, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the first 7 appearances by prior mid-career arrivals to the Mets rotation. I tried to limit this list to guys who were slotted comfortably into the rotation, and left off guys who were not yet established starters (other than Rick Reed), guys who were obvious reclamation projects (Pete Harnisch, Randy Jones, Don Cardwell, Ray Burris), guys who started off in the pen (George Stone posted an 0.60 ERA in 7 relief appearances in 1973 to force his way into the rotation), guys who went down for the year with injuries before making it through 7 starts (Vic Zambrano), guys who came straight from Japan (Masato Yoshii) and guys who started with the team in its expansion years. Here, in ascending order of ERA, you can see the great, the hideous, and everything in between (Seaver is listed here for his 1983 encore). One or two of these guys made a few relief appearances in here, but they all started at least 5 of the 7 games.

Al Leiter3219983-21.3945.13601641
Rick Reed3219973-21.5048353532
Bob Ojeda2819865-11.7042.13621027
Tom Seaver3819832-22.12513122038
Bruce Berenyi2919844-32.7043.14031829
Johan Santana2920083-22.9146.13571247
Pedro Astacio3220025-22.94494471140
Pedro Martinez3320054-13.0650253963
Mickey Lolich3519762-43.14434621139
Frank Viola2919892-43.18514121442
Pat Zachry2519771-33.2638.23642124
Armando Reynoso3119972-03.27443541826
Hideo Nomo2919981-13.5238.12922540
Tom Glavine3720034-23.64424441322
Bret Saberhagen2819922-24.02474131146
Mark Clark2819961-54.3747.15371429
Orlando Hernandez4020062-44.8938.23961230
Kevin Appier3320012-35.0637.14431524
Mike Torrez3619831-35.1629.23111613
Kris Benson2920043-35.49414661324
Oliver Perez2420061-36.3836.24171741
Mike Hampton2720002-46.5238.24123619
Orel Hershiser4019992-46.6235.14102218
Steve Trachsel3020011-57.05375091125

I'm not sure you can generalize much here except to say that 7 games does not a season make - some of these guys stayed with the tone they set early, others saw their seasons turn around dramatically, whether for the better (Hampton, Trachsel) or for the worse (Astacio). Other notes:

*Note that the subsequent performance record of the guys who topped 49 innings is decidedly worse than the rest.

*Berenyi and Astacio were the only ones to get decisions in all 7 appearances.

*Yes, Santana's HR rate is bad. On the whole, Santana's had one of the better starts, but of course Viola was the only guy who arrived with comparable fanfare (Pedro and Saberhagen were surrounded by health questions from Day One).

*You forget quite how utterly dominant Pedro was in those early appearances.

*Remember that the league ERA has gone up a lot over the years; under the circumstances, the Mets were happier with El Duque on his arrival than they were with Lolich.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I think Mike Hampton came in with fairly comparable expectations as well, although his resume was shorter.

Considering Santana's tendency to have extremely big second halves, I'd say he's off to a very satisfactory start.

Posted by: Jerry at May 5, 2008 2:15 PM

I'd forgotten how good Seaver was in his return in '83. I remember the bullpen blowing his opening day start, but I'd completely lost the fact that he stayed effective in the early going. Look at the Ks and the hits allowed!

Posted by: Mike at May 6, 2008 7:01 AM

Mets won Seaver's Opening Day return in '83, 2-0, with effective relief by Doug Sisk, who got the win.

Posted by: Dave at May 7, 2008 9:51 AM
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