FLB: The Search for Johan

Tomorrow, June 9, is an important date in fantasy baseball history. That was the date that, in 2004, a burgeoning Twins left-hander named Johan Santana stepped forth to beat the Mets behind seven innings of one-run, 10-strikeout baseball. No one realized it at the time, but we were witnessing the start of one of the most remarkable hot streaks in recent memory.

Santana would go on to win 18 of his next 20 decisions, register a 1.36 ERA and 0.697 WHIP and strike out 204 batters in 159.1 innings in 22 starts from June 9 through season's end, literally single-handedly carrying countless fantasy baseball teams to league titles. It's rare that one man, often only one-23rd of an active roster, can have such an immense impact, but in the case of Johan, this was a streak of epic proportions.

One might argue that if an elite starting pitcher has such potential to improve a fantasy team's standings so quickly, we should all be giving pitchers much more consideration on draft-day, or on the trade market. But remember, the reason so many people -- myself included -- suggest caution regarding investing too much in pitchers is their risky nature as a whole. Each year, some pitcher is going to step up and enjoy a dominant hot streak, maybe not quite to the level of Johan's final four months of 2004, but perhaps like Andy Pettitte's final 20 starts last year, when he was 14-2 with a 1.56 ERA and 0.923 WHIP and had 17 quality starts. Of course, Pettitte's hot streak in 2005 came as a complete surprise based on his start to the year, and that helps illustrate that aforementioned unpredictability that surrounds all pitchers. Remember, Pettitte wasn't close to a top-10 fantasy pitcher in anyone's eyes entering 2005, so if you had him, he carried you, but if you didn't, you can't blame yourself for not having seen it coming.