Jonathan Sanchez is the San Francisco Giants' Achilles' Heel

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJune 18, 2009

Being away on vacation this past week, I thought I could take a break from Giants baseball.

However, despite being on the East Coast (first in Boston and now in Maine), I have been able to continue to somewhat follow my favorite boys in orange and black.

Turns out my dad has the radio package that lets users listen to any game from anywhere in the country. Thus, he and I listened to the our beloved Giants sweep the A's and improve to a season-best six games over .500.

But then what happens?

The all-powerful Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim come into San Francisco, and the Halos end up taking out their own brooms in the city by the bay. 

Of course, it doesn't help that San Francisco opened up the first two games of the series with their No. 4 and No. 5 starters.

Both Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez could not get out of the fourth inning, and the Giants went down big early in both contests.

To be fair, Barry Zito has performed quite admirably for a No. 4 starter. Throw out his $126 million contract and just look at his overall performance this season, and you can tell that Zito has done quite well.

Also take into account all the negative press and bashing by the fans due to Zito's sub-par 2007 and 2008 seasons, and it is phenomenal that he has been able to get his career back on track.

Therefore, any loyal Giants fan will be willing to give Zito a break after his seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings fiasco that was Monday night's game against the Angels.

However, Tuesday night's game is the one game during my vacation that I would have preferred to have not listened to on the radio.

If the Giants had won the series opener, I would have most likely not listened to Game 2, knowing that it was a Sanchez start.

In the second straight game, the Giants faced a 7-0 deficit before getting out of the fourth inning, as Sanchez gave up seven runs (six earned) in his 3 2/3 innings.

Now perhaps most readers out there are tired of my seemingly endless rips of the Giants' fifth starter.

To those of you who fall in the category, I ask you this: Would you be happy with a starting pitcher who has only had one good month in nearly a year and a half of starting at the big league level? And if you were to take away that month, his ERA of all his other combined starts is over six?

The answer is simple: Jonathan Sanchez lacks composure and mechanics, and therefore does not have the ability to locate his pitches.

None of the Giants faithful should find this acceptable.

I cannot count how many times fans argue that Sanchez has "electric stuff," that he is still "young" (he will turn 27 later this year), and that he still has tremendous upside.

Now many of the fellow bloggers I argue with would expect me to negate these two comments.

But I'm not going to negate these points, because they are indeed facts. Sanchez does have tremendous stuff and is still relatively young in terms of starting in the major leagues. He has been a starter for less than two full seasons and can still pave out a solid career if he ever learns how to actually locate and keep his composure.

The issue for the Giants is: How long are they going to let Sanchez bring them down?

With 34 wins, San Francisco ranks fifth in the National League and 11th in the majors in victories.

If the Giants were still in the rebuilding (or just performing inadequately) stages of 2005-08, then it would make sense to give Jonathan Sanchez ample time to find his game.

However, this is 2009, and the Giants are actually competing at a high level. And barring an injury to Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain, they should be competing for a playoff spot into the last week of the season.

Considering the fact the pitching is clearly carrying the Giants this season, can they afford to have their Achilles' heel in their starting rotation?

On the season, Sanchez is 2-7 with a 5.43 ERA. Out of 107 MLB pitchers to have thrown over 60 innings, only nine of them have a higher ERA than Sanchez.

Not only that, but for a pitcher who relies heavily on the strikeout, Sanchez's strikeout-to-walk ratio is barely 1.5/1.

With 43 walks on the season, Sanchez has averaged 6.3 per nine innings pitched, which is not a formula for success.

Even though the Giants' lefty didn't allow a single walk in his 3.2 innings against the Angels, the previous start he walked seven and only allowed one earned run. Most fans were expecting Sanchez to turn his season around after that start, but those seven walks made many others extremely uneasy.

Now whether or not the Giants can find a trade in which they can receive adequate return for their young lefty is up in the air.

With his current downfall, Sanchez's stock is continuing to drop, so a trade seems less and less likely. And the fact that Sanchez continues to fail to keep his composure, especially after errors in the field, many teams will be backing out on dealing for the young lefty,

However, a move to either the bullpen or to the minor leagues is soon to be vital if the Giants want to stay in contention in the National League.

San Francisco has pitching talent in the minor leagues, as Tripe A starter Kevin Pucetas has been pitching quite well for the Fresno Grizzlies so far this season. 

Pucetas' numbers have been up and down, and he allows a good amount of base runners. But his ERA is low, which shows his capability to work out of jams.

That is something Sanchez has failed to accomplish time and time again.

The Giants need to see what Pucetas has to offer in the fifth slot, because right now, Sanchez is absolutely stinking up the joint.

In his 13 starts, he has given his team a realistic chance to win just four times. And with the definition of a quality start being six or more innings pitched and three earned runs or less, Sanchez has thrown just two quality starts.

Currently, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are carrying the rotation and the club, and it has been enough to float around .500, but the Giants can no longer afford to have their supposed strength of their team have an Achilles' heel.


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