Road Kill, Joy Kill, whatever. Ervin Santana can be classified as either when pitching on the road. The straight as an arrow fastball that German drilled over the fence to give the Royals the lead and win on Wednesday night, was indicative what he's been doing on the road, entering into his third season.
Take a look at Santana's home/road splits, they are Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde like.
2005: Home ( 9-3, 3.18 ERA) - Away (3-5, 7.43 ERA)
2006: Home (10-2, 3.02 ERA) - Away (6-6, 5.02 ERA)
2007: Home (2-0, 1.93 ERA) - Away (0-4, 7.87 ERA)
Ugly, unless of course he's taking the hill at home, then it's all good. Here's the deal though, you need to be effective on the road to be a quality pitcher in the big leagues, I don't care how good you are when you take the hill in front of home crowd cheers.
From watching some of his games on the road vs. home, I've noticed that his fastball command on the road is just awful, for whatever the reason. I've seen calls for inside or outside fastballs thrown right down the middle of the plate, which resulted in an extra base hit most of the time.
Another thing I've noticed is, he's used his changeup more at home (by count, he threw his changeup 10 times vs. the Rangers at home and 7 vs. the Mariners). In the combine 4 losses of his on the road this year, he's thrown his changeup 7 times from what I caught with my eye in going back to my mlbtv.com archived games.
The solution? well it appears it's easy to resolve. Throw more changeup's in fastball counts and starting hitting the corners when the catcher calls for it. Perhaps have Santana hypnotized before the game "You're not in KC, you're in Anaheim, Esteban German is not Albert Pujols".
You hear the boys at Baseball America or scouts talk about, "he's only a two pitch pitcher, he likely profiles best as a late inning reliever", they say that because you need at least 3 average to good pitches to survive as a successful starter in the big leagues. When Santana is at his best, home or not, he's using all 3 of his pitches (an above average fastball, average slider and average changeup).
Santana has no room for error if he's not commanding his 93-97 MPH fastball because it has no movement. It would behoove the coaching staff to teach him a cutter, add some sink to his fastball and preach CHANGEUP CHANGEUP CHANGEUP when facing hitters on the road.
He's got the talent so he's going to get his feathers ruffled by the fans & critics if he doesn't start having success outside of Anaheim, especially since this team isn't the strongest offensively, we need our starting rotation to notch quality starts for the majority of games this year. I pull for Santana everytime he takes the mound, but I'm skeptical of any type of success when he does.
The time is now for Santana to shit or get off the pot. With Saunders and Moseley showing they can pitch at the major league level with success and Top Prospect, Nick Adenhart not too far behind, Santana can be expendable in a trade for a power hitting 3B, DH or LF. The Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies, Cubs or Orioles could have some interest in Santana's services, since they're battling issues with their starting rotation.
If not, let's hope Santana gets it, he has every bit of ability as right-handed hurler Justin Verlander if he can put it alltogether. Not a bad guy to lean on for years to come if this "thower" can learn how to pitch.