Why Is Giants Starter Jonathan Sanchez Getting So Much Hype?

Andy BenschSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 11:  Jonathan Sanchez #53 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 11, 2008 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In June 2008, the Giants' young lefty Jonathan Sanchez recorded a 5-1 record with an ERA below three. However, in the rest of his starts that came in other months, the Giants hurler went 4-11, including a 1-7 mark in his last eight decisions. For the year Sanchez finished 9-12 with a 5.01 ERA.

I admit to riding the Sanchez bandwagon back in June 2008, but I was also the first one off come July. Apparently I was one of the few that jumped off.

This offseason, Sanchez has been competing for the fifth and final spot in the Giants' rotation, but his main competition, Noah Lowry, has been set back with another minor injury. Therefore there hasn't been much of a competition.

Sanchez is now the presumed fifth starter, and Giants general manager Brian Sabean probably couldn't be any happier. For some reason, the Giants GM is so high on Sanchez that he feels that his team "wouldn't get adequate value in a trade" (for Sanchez).

However, if Lowry can come back healthy after missing all of 2008 and his minor setback in spring training, he ought to have his job back. Lowry was the Giants' winningest pitcher back in 2007, with a 14-8 record and a 3.92 ERA.

When healthy, Lowry is a proven commodity with an extremely deceiving changeup and a Barry Zito-esque curve ball. In the past though, Lowry was so dominant with the fastball/changeup combo that at times he didn't even need a breaking ball.

Meanwhile, it seems as if Sabean prefers Sanchez over even a healthy Noah Lowry. Now, Sabean is a professional baseball mind, and I am just a fan, but I cannot figure out why Sabean is so high on Sanchez.

I understand that the Giants' 26-year-old lefty has a strikeout/inning ratio that is solid for any pitcher, nonetheless a left-hander. However, Sanchez went 9-12 last season and is 13-18 in his career with a 5.18 ERA. Sanchez also allows 4.5 walks per nine innings, which is alarming to many Giants fans who have witnessed Sanchez's wildness.

Now in order for that number to take precedence, we ought to look at Matt Cain, who struggled with walks last season but only allowed 3.77 walks per nine innings. Sanchez is wild for a reason—his lazy arm action, which helps his pitches look fast in the hitter's eye, is a detriment to his arm. Sanchez throws out of an awkward looking sidearm/three-quarters release that looks as if he could throw out his elbow on any pitch.

I prefer Noah Lowry, but to be an honest reporter, Lowry's BB/9 innings in his last full season was exactly five—even worse than Sanchez. However, Lowry obviously did a better job holding runners on and keeping them from scoring because his 2007 ERA was more than a full run lower than Sanchez' 2008 ERA.

Even if Lowry can't come back healthy ever, if his arm is ruined for the long term, the Giants have plenty of pitching—which is why I don't understand the Giants' love-fest with Sanchez.

Sanchez is going to be the fifth starter at best. The Giants have reigning Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, three-time Cy Young award winner Randy Johnson, former Cy Young winner Barry Zito, and Matt Cain as their top four starters. Plus the Giants have pitchers Kevin Pucetas, Madison Bumgardner, and Tim Alderson in the minors waiting to make an appearance at the big league level.

With the pitching depth that the Giants have, why did they not package Sanchez in a deal to bring in the big bat they so desperately need?

One rumor that was out there earlier in preseason was Sanchez straight up for Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu. Cantu hit a respectable .277 with 29 home runs and 95 RBI last season with the Marlins and would fill the Giants' void at third base, allowing Pablo Sandoval to play first base, where he is more comfortable.

Granted, this was just a rumor, but it is conceivable that in some kind of package the Giants could have received a hitter of Cantu's caliber or better at the third base position in return for Sanchez as the main part of the deal on the Giants' end.

Making the deal would then give a healthy Noah Lowry the fifth spot in the rotation, and the Giants pitching staff wouldn't miss a beat. Perhaps Lowry is still hurt; the Giants have a plethora of pitching down in the minor leagues that could fill in for Lowry's absence as the fifth starter.

Just looking at the overall numbers, it is difficult for me to understand why the Giants are so keen on keeping Sanchez, who is a wild card every time he takes the mound. That being the case, if the Giants had the ability to make a trade, they should have pulled the trigger.

Currently Sanchez has trade value, but if his 2009 season resembles his 2008 season, his value will drop tremendously, and the Giants will have missed a huge opportunity to bolster their offense.