Santiago is a mere 28 years old. In some ways he's in his pitching prime, but loss in velocity is one thing that is hard to fight. It's like gravity - it's going to go down given enough time. According to this data, velocity begins to decline pretty much at the start of your pitching career with a fairly steady decent after age 25/26.
Generally, pitchers see their velocity peak in their early 20s and steadily decline by a full mile per hour by age 26.
When Santiago began his MLB career with the White Sox in 2012 (he pitched a few games in 2011), his average velocity on his fastball was in the 93-94MPH range and even hit 97-98MPH on a few occasions. Fast forward to his tenure with the Angels and in 2014 his average had dropped to 91.5MPH with 96MPH peaks. He was still touching 96MPH max velocity but his average had dipped below 91MPH in 2015.
Take a look at how lethal he was last night (many of his strikeouts were with well-placed fastballs). You'll see the radar gun hitting 96MPH. In fact, Santiago touched 96.2 last night, with an average velocity on his fastball of almost 94MPH.
In this table from PitchFX you'll see Santiago had a whiff rate of 22.7% on his fastball (his highest EVER of his career) last night. Granted, most of these were well-placed, as you can see in the video, but there is no doubt he is throwing some serious heat, and at this early point in the season is throwing more like a 24 year old in terms of velocity than a 28 year old.
|Pitch Type||Velo (Max)||H-Break||V-Break||Count||Strikes / %||Swings / %||Whiffs / %||BIP (No Out)||SNIPs / %||LWTS|
|FA (Fastball)||93.8 (96.2)||7.93||8.49||75||53 / 70.7%||37 / 49.3%||17 / 22.7%||7 (0)||46 / 67.6%||-4.47|
|CH (Changeup)||84.8 (88.2)||10.33||4.88||20||7 / 35.0%||5 / 25.0%||3 / 15.0%||1 (1)||6 / 31.6%||0.80|
|SL (Slider)||82.8 (85.1)||-1.64||-2.03||2||2 / 100.0%||1 / 50.0%||0 / 0.0%||1 (0)||1 / 100.0%||-0.31|
|CU (Curveball)||76.1 (77.6)||-6.02||-5.78||8||5 / 62.5%||5 / 62.5%||0 / 0.0%||4 (1)||1 / 25.0%||0.23|
|FC (Cutter)||87.2 (87.2)||-0.68||3.68||1||0 / 0.0%||0 / 0.0%||0 / 0.0%||0 (0)||0 / 0.0%||0.05|
Pitch classifications provided by PITCH INFO.
If Hector can continue to hit his spots, be smart about his pitches and keep that confidence, we have seen signs he is going to be a pretty dominant force on the pitching staff in 2016. One also has to wonder what sort of impact Geovany Soto is having on his pitch selection since Soto has caught all 3 of Santiago's starts this year. The concern I have always had with Santiago (aside from location and throwing too many pitches too early), is that he has more and more trouble each time he faces a batter in the lineup. Usually by the third time around they have his number, which is large part is due to his pitch choice. Of course, my other concern, is the fact that he gave up 29 long balls in 2015, which ties for first in the American League.
I know I'm not alone in hoping that first half of 2015 and this first half of April is a good sign of things to come for Santiago for the REST of 2016.