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John Buck says Johan Santana was tipping his pitches last year

Feb 8, 2013, 4:32 PM EDT

Johan Santana Getty Images

Johan Santana struggled mightily last year. His new catcher, John Buck, thinks he knows why:

During an appearance on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove show on Thursday night, new Mets catcher John Buck told Kevin Burkhardt that left-hander Johan Santana may have been tipping his pitches last season. Here’s the quote, courtesy of Michael Baron at MetsBlog…

“Being on the other side—whether it’s Johan tipping his pitches or whatever—those little tiny things will help. I was just on the other side hitting off of him. Maybe we can tighten some of those things up.”

I hate to be so damn negative because I love Santana and want him to pitch for a long time, but every time I hear someone saying that a pitcher “may have been tipping his pitches,” I hear it as some sort of death knell. Like a stage of denial or something.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    I have a better tip – his fastball is now about as fast as his changeup used to be. Guys can just wait and see instead of guessing.

    • thebadguyswon - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      In 2006, Johan had an 8.2 MPH difference between his fastball and his change.
      In 2009, Johan had an 8.1 MPH difference between his fastball and his change.
      In 2012, Johan had an 8.1 MPH difference between his fastball and his change.

      Uncle Moses Green, meet facts.

      • thebadguyswon - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:02 PM

        Sorry….those were his fastball vs slider speeds.

        To more accurately answer your statement:

        His change up in 2006 averaged 82 MPH. His fastball this year averaged 88 MPH. The differences between the pitches was 11.3 MPH in 2006, 9 MPH in 2009 and exactly 11 MPH in 2012. Speed difference is the key, as you know. And sure his fastball is closer in speed now to his change then, but trust me, the man is still plenty effective. Especially considering the nature of the surgery he had.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        You’re preaching to the choir, I live by fact.

        Pitch fx says 2006 diff was 11.3, 2009 was 9.9 – I’m guessing you did fastball/slider by mistake. His fastball is down avg. 4 mph, but after his no hitter it was dramatically down.

        But I salute your research – not many commenters go that far.

      • paperlions - Feb 9, 2013 at 12:08 PM

        Rather than the MPH difference between the two, it may be the difference in apparent effort level, if he has to put more effort into the FB to maintain its velo and the difference between the FB and CH, hitters would pick that up easily.

  2. chill1184 - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Well whatever is was, hopefully Johan and Buck figure it out.

  3. dohpey28 - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    He actually pitched really well til July hit and he ran out of gas.

    Before July 6-4, 2.72, 99ip, 74 hits, 30 ER
    July on 0-5, 21.50, 18ip, 43 hits, 33 ER

    Those last 5 starts where horrific. But he was clearly out of gas from his rehab and slight overruse. He still averaged almost 1k per inning.

    • thebadguyswon - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      After the no-no he was toast for the most part. But as he said, it was worth it.

  4. jaysjunkie - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    And I’m betting Buck still hit for squat against Santana last year.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      Buck was 0-3 with a BB against Johan last year. It was the BB that convinced him something was wrong.

  5. stlouis1baseball - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    A Pitcher tipping his pitches can very much be a death knell.
    MLB hitters are well…MLB hitters. The last thing you want is to give them more of an advantage.
    What I find surprising is the number of pitchers who do tip their pitches.
    It’s like their coaches and/or catchers (or even other teammates) are oblivious to it.
    Yet…opposing teams are all over it like a 2nd shirt.

    • easports82 - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      I don’t think it’s really surprising that tipping isn’t found by teammates/coaches. Opponents are going to analyze very specifically between pitch types to try and get the edge. Guys on the same team are looking at overall delivery and mechanics: arm angle, landing spot, etc. Tipping is usually a tiny quirk that you have to be looking for that won’t really be noticed in side sessions.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 8, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Good point(s) 82. I will say some teams/individuals seem to do a better job of identifying it.
        It was one of the things Dave Duncan regularly watched for. Yadier still does.
        But that’s probably more a product of D.D. tutelage than anything else.

  6. unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    It’s just one of those things that seem to come out right before a formerly pitcher becomes eminently hittable. Like when old batters who can’t catch a good fastball anymore suddenly come up with new “swing fixes” or “timing devices.” It’s never good news.

    Most important tip re: Johan – it was the no-hitter, dummies. After throwing 278 pitches that night he was never right again.

    • thebadguyswon - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:05 PM

      278 or 134

      same difference, clearly

  7. cur68 - Feb 8, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    They all tip their pitches once in a while. Every single one of them at some point will tip a pitch. The only question is: can the dude at the plate hit it? Hitting a mid 90’s fastball is damn hard, even when you know its coming. Why do we know this is true? Mariano Rivera tips every single pitch he delivers. Its a cutter, dude. It may move away from you off the plate, it may start at you and move across the plate, but it is going to cut, every time. No one on this planet can say that a batter has 1 chance in 3 to hit Mo’s stuff and yet every one knows its a cutter on the way. Whatever’s up with Johan Santana does not have that much to do with “tipping pitches”.

  8. tile84 - Feb 8, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    John Buck has been tipping his swings since he got paid

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      now that’s funny

  9. kranepool - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Last season Matt Harvey mentioned the same thing to Dan Warthen about Santana just before Johan was shut down for the season

  10. Old Gator - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    For a guy who hit .192 last year, if Santana was tipping his peetches, someone wasn’t picking up the hints.

    I missed where the Feather Lice unloaded him on the Mutts in December. I guess you could say he was traded from the Feesh in November and designated for assignment – to the Mutts – in December. For how much of the idiotic salary Scrooge McLoria paid him did Toronto get stuck, or did the Vernon Wells fairy sprinkle goopher dust on this trade too?

    • cur68 - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:46 PM

      Our GM Who Art In Toronto did not need to sprinkle fairy dust. He did the Mets a favour and took away that awful publicity hound and nogoodnik, RA Dickey in the deal. The Buckster went the other way as a Thole, RA’s personal catcher, replacement. AA kind and giving like that. I may be freezing my narrow black ass off but I gots a ballclub to root for, boo-yeah!

      • Old Gator - Feb 8, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        cur: so have I. It just happens to be in Toronto.

      • cur68 - Feb 8, 2013 at 10:25 PM

        You a smart dude. That’s gonna be a good team there.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      It is difficult to say exactly who cash is targeted in such a large deal (12 players all told) but Scrooge McLoria anted up $4 million as part of the trade. As Calvera said in The Magnificent Seven: “Generosity. That was my first mistake.”

      It would be cool if the Jays got some of that cash to cover the Buck salary and then unloaded him on the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal. You know – cool for the Jays.

      John Buck is now the answer to a trivia question – who was involved in trades for Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey in the same season.

  11. yousuxxors - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    i dont think it was the no hitter but the ankle injury he got the next game he pitched. he was doing great the next game then injured his ankke and the rest of the season was horrific.

  12. Jack Bauer 24 - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Does it really matter?? he’s washed u[p and over the hill anyway . Another long miserable season lies ahead in Queens .

    • Old Gator - Feb 8, 2013 at 10:09 PM

      Yes, but in Brooklyn and Nassau the sun is always shining.

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