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Why has Hector Santiago struggled so badly with the Twins?

santiagoTwins lefthander Hector Santiago is slated to make his fifth start for Minnesota on Friday in Toronto. Given that the Blue Jays are second in MLB in home runs with 180 and have a preponderance of power hitting right handed batters, we might expect a rough outing and an extension of this question: what is wrong with Santiago?

Those first four starts with the Twins since Santiago was dealt at the deadline for Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer? They’ve been bad enough to be considered a disaster. What looked three weeks ago like a trade that was not only addition by subtraction but genuinely intriguing given Santiago’s career arc instead has some fans pining for the days of Ricky. That’s hard to do, but Santiago — in giving up 32 hits, 23 earned runs and seven home runs in just 19 innings over those four Twins starts — has made it possible.

Those numbers stand in contrast to a body of work that consisted of at least decent results for Santiago in more than 100 career starts. They stand in stark contrast to his work for the Angels in July, when he was 6-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA before the trade.

So, really: what’s going on here? There are a few possibilities I’ll list here, and really countless other things could be going on.

1) This is a natural regression to the mean within a small sample. Santiago, after all, had an outlier month of July in which he was exceptionally good. Most of the rest of his career, he’s been a bottom of the rotation guy — solid, career ERA of 3.88, with a tendency to give up walks and home runs while also getting his fair share of strikeouts. If you had sprinkled in four bad starts with the six good ones he had in July instead of stacking them on top of one another and adding a trade to the mix, few people likely would have noticed. String a bunch of bad starts together for a new team, and people notice.

2) But there appears to be more going on here than Santiago simply joining a new team. He also is apparently trying to pitch differently than he did with the Angels. Per La Velle E. Neal III’s postgame blog after Santiago’s latest poor outing:

Santiago has joined the Twins and has since decided to address the number of batters he’s been walking. He was leading the league in walks at the time of the trade. He’s altered his delivery with the goal of improving his command. It seems to have altered his mental approach as well. “That aggressive mentality where I let it fly and kind attack the hitters, I have a little blockage in there right now where I’m trying to control the zone and make everything over the plate,” he said. “It’s kind of put me in a spot where I’m worried about throwing more strikes and not worried about getting guys to chase or making some pitches where they have to come to me.”

What’s not entirely clear is how much of this is the Twins’ influence and how much is Santiago’s own tinkering, though one would think that a pitcher coming off such a hot July wouldn’t try too hard to mess with a good thing.

I’m not enough of an expert to see a ton of difference between Santiago’s delivery in his last start and Santiago during a mid-July start with the Angels in which he went seven scoreless innings, but he does appear to be more in attack mode with the July pitch.

Regardless, we could be witnessing a temporary blip as Santiago works to find the balance between pitching with more control while also having sharpness with his pitches. In that case, these could be growing pains for a greater good — tinkering during a lost season.

3) Or … in an attempt to get even more, perhaps Santiago will actually give even less. He’s only walked three guys in 19 innings with the Twins, including none in his last two starts. But he’s also only struck out 12 batters in that time and has been getting knocked around.

He might be an “as is” commodity, whereby he and the Twins will need to live with wildness as the means by which Santiago is effective. If that’s the case, one would hope everyone has the good sense to stop the tinkering at some point — and that Santiago can still find whatever he had going in July.

Can Vikings afford Adrian Peterson in 2017? Yes, one expert says

petersonkalilThe 2016 NFL regular season hasn’t even started yet, and already some of us are thinking about 2017.

Maybe that’s just the nature of the business. Maybe that’s not fair.

Regardless, this thought is looming as it pertains to the Vikings and their most visible franchise player: what will they do when Adrian Peterson is a 32-year-old running back with an $18 million cap hit next season?

As in: can they afford to keep him — and even so, do they really want to keep him at that price? Some of that could depend on what happens this season, of course. But for now, we’re dealing in hypotheticals — and trying to sort it out.

To do so, we asked Joel Corry of CBS Sports about Peterson and several other salary issues on this week’s Access Vikings podcast. Corry is a former player agent who is now a salary cap expert. His full thoughts are available here starting around the 23:00 minute mark (or if you prefer, here’s the iTunes and Google Play version, where you can subscribe to the podcast).

But here’s a snippet of Corry on Peterson and his contract:

“They can afford it for one reason: They don’t have a quarterback  at that cap number. You don’t have an Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton quarterback cap number. So as long as he’s producing and he’s still the best running back in football, you can keep him at that cap number. The problem is that market has become depressed ever since he did his deal and Chris Johnson (did his). He sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the running back market. But if he does what he did last year or better you can live with it mainly because you don’t have that big quarterback number siting out there.”

That’s a very good point, and one that underscores the Vikings’ window of opportunity while Teddy Bridgewater is still on his rookie deal. Because he was a first-round pick, the Vikings will have a fifth-year option on Bridgewater — meaning he can be under team control for this season and two years beyond. At some point in that stretch, though, the Vikings would probably look to make a long-term decision on Bridgewater — likely an extension assuming he continues to progress and lead the team to victories.

In that same time frame, as Corry also discussed, some of the Vikings’ other young players like Xavier Rhodes, Sharrif Floyd, Anthony Barr and eventually Eric Kendricks would be in line to get big bumps as well. For now, though, all those good young players are on pretty modest deals — making it possible to keep a guy like Peterson, who is still quite valuable as long as he keeps producing.

With Peterson, the decision next year would be more about whether the $18 million could be spent in a way that is more valuable to the Vikings. By 2018, the Vikings might have to start making many decisions more difficult than that one.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Wichita at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Detroit at Twins

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Detroit at Twins

    12:10 pm on MLBN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Lynx at Connecticut

    6 pm on 106.1-FM

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    6:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:35 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Toronto

    12:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:35 pm on 1220-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at Miami FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • San Diego at Vikings (preseason)

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Twins at Toronto

    12:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    5:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Seattle at Lynx

    6 pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Winnipeg at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Houston



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    - Bot 6th



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    San Diego


    - Top 6th



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    - Top 5th



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    6:05 PM

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    6:07 PM

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