ChrisOLeary.com > Professional Pitcher Analyses > Johan Santana

Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Johan Santana

8.3.2008

Johan Santana has been one of the most effective pitchers of the last few years. However, I question whether Johan will be able to maintain that level of success or whether he will be as big of a disappointment for the Mets as Barry Zito has been for the Giants. Let me explain why I say that.

Johan Santana And The Mets

The video clip below is from a week ago when the Mets played the Cardinals. In this case, Johan Santana threw Albert Pujols a tailing fastball that Pujols hit off the end of his bat for a ground out to SS.

Video Clip of Johan Santana

Johan Santana - Mets

The thing that concerns me about Johan Santana is that I see a bit of a timing problem in his mechanics. The thing to notice is the position of Johan Santana's Pitching Arm Side (PAS) forearm in Frame 74, when his shoulders start rotating. Rather than being vertical, it is horizontal. This can increase the load on both the elbow and the shoulder. It isn't until Frame 78 that Johan Santana's PAS forearm is vertical. A second thing to notice is how high Johan Santana's PAS elbow gets relative to the level of his shoulders.

Johan Santana And The Twins

If you look at video of Johan Santana from his time with the Twins, you can see the same basic problem.

Video Clip of Johan Santana

Johan Santana - Twins

Notice how in Frame 17, as Johan Santana's shoulders start to rotate, his PAS forearm is horizontal rather than vertical.

A Troubling Similarity

The thing that bothers me about Johan Santana's pitching mechanics is that they bear a significant resemblance to the pitching mechanics of Francisco Liriano.

Video Clip of Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano

Notice how high Francisco Liriano's PAS elbow gets in Frame 19 in the clip above.

A Key Variable?

One thing that may help to explain Johan Santana's relative health is the angle of his PAS elbow.

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

Notice how Johan Santana's PAS elbow is bent more than 90 degrees as his PAS forearm passes through the high-cocked position. Theoretically, this can reduce the load on both the elbow and the shoulder. I also think the fact that Johan Santana is more of a fastball/change-up pitcher, while Francisco Liriano is more of a fastball/slider pitcher, may help to explain their different fates.

The Bottom Line

There is no question that Johan Santana has been very successful to date. However, due to his borderline mechanics I question whether Johan Santana will be able to continue that level of success. I think Johan Santana could easily give the Mets the same heartache that Pedro Martinez and El Duque have.

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