2008 Season: If the 2008 season ended on August 15, Johan Santana's maiden voyage with the Mets would've been considered a disappointment.
A three-hit shutout against the Pirates on August 17 began a nine-game stretch during which Santana was the best pitcher in the league and cemented his bid for pitching's top prize. As Rome burned around him, Santana continued to provide Mets fans hope every time he took the ball. His complete game shutout on the second-to-last day of the season should go down as one of the clutch pitching performances in franchise history. It was a joy to watch.
The final numbers - 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP - would've looked even prettier had the bullpen not blown so many games that Santana left tied or in the lead. The ERA was right in line with what you would've expected from a transition into a non-DH league, but the WHIP remained surprisingly high based on Santana's last five seasons. A few more hits and a few more walks will do that to you; the Mets will have to hope that Santana has not peaked a little earlier than expected and that the WHIP will return to the 0.950 to 1.050 range next season.
The Verdict: Are you kidding me? Santana is the ace of the staff and proved his mettle at a time where most of his teammates failed to do so. He should capably anchor the rotation for the next five seasons and may be a candidate for a second multi-year deal when this one expires in 2013. He is a legitimate #1 starter and one of the five best pitchers in the National League.
2009 Projection: A similar ERA (2.50 to 2.75) with a slightly lower WHIP (in the 1.100 range). If the bullpen stops blowing leads, Santana could win 20 games and a Cy Young Award.