Major League Baseball officially entered the second half of its season on Thursday, and almost every commentator asked to give his or her “surprise team” of the first 81-plus games named the San Francisco Giants.
Most every fan of the sport recognized the squad’s arsenal of arms in the starting rotation: from reigning National League Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, to the most-recent member of the 300-win club, Randy Johnson. Unfortunately for the Big Unit, his milestone victory came in front of approximately seventeen fans in Washington, D.C. at Nationals Park. That fact aside, add names like Matt Cain, a winner of ten contests, and the fresh-faced Ryan Sadowski, and there is no doubting San Francisco’s pitching prowess.
Last week, the stars aligned to add another accolade to an already impressive group of pitchers. On July 10th, young Jonathan Sanchez accomplished something that had not happened for a Giants’ pitcher in over thirty years. Sanchez threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. If it had not been for a fielding error by third baseman Juan Uribe in the ninth, Sanchez would have walked away with a perfect game. The craziest part is that he was not even originally scheduled to start that night, as he was replacing an injured Randy Johnson.
Now the first question that should come to mind, at least for a cynical fan is, “Does a no-hitter against the Padres actually count?” I can assure you that despite a runs-scored-to-runs-allowed differential of 110 for the Padres, good for second-worst in the League to the Nationals, the result is in fact legitimate.
But the game and result in question here are exactly the reasons for the Giants and GM Brian Sabean to trade Sanchez before the July 31st, deadline. I hear what you’re thinking: “Crazy! Preposterous! Unthinkable!” Actually, the word you’re searching for is necessary.
San Francisco already possesses at least three high-quality starting pitchers, and Sadowski was impressive in his first few starts for the Giants. Chief among his quality outings was his first, when he took the ball against Prince Fielder and the Brewers at Miller Park. Welcome to the Big Leagues, kid. Still, a solid performance for him there.
Add in “Mr. Mullet” Brian Wilson and what will hopefully be a more consistent Barry Zito going forward, and the black and orange will continue to be golden from sixty feet, six inches. This will be especially true if Zito can channel that guy from a few years ago. The one who used to work on the other side of the bay.
What the team needs is a bat… or two. Don’t believe me? If you’re even a casual fan of what happens on the diamond, you won’t need much convincing. Consider the following:
1) San Francisco leads the NL Wild Card standings by only 1.5 games over Colorado.
2) Pablo Sandoval leads the team in at least four offensive categories (.333 batting average, 15 homeruns, 55 RBI and 102 total hits). Bengie Molina is batting cleanup, he of the .439 slugging percentage. You don’t want that lineup facing a Chad Billingsley or a 1-2 punch the caliber of Beckett and Lester should they reach the World Series.
3) The Giants have only a mark of plus forty four in terms of run differential this season. If a Matt Holliday or Nick Johnson was inserted into Bruce Bochy’s lineup card, that number could easily be over 110 by season’s end.
Dangling Sanchez now is perfect because management can use all of the hype surrounding the no-hitter as leverage. The reality is that most no-hitters are fluke occurrences, that is, unless your name is Nolan Ryan. He threw seven.
Baseball is much like the stock market when it comes to trades. Buy low, sell high. Jonathan Sanchez’s stock price will not increase from its current level, so the smart move would be to find a rebuilding team with no title hopes this year to dance with. We know the Pittsburgh Pirates are always willing to practically give good talent away.
By acting now though, the suits in San Francisco can pick up a player to insert between Sandoval and Molina every night. It'll give the team that much more of a legitimate shot at a long playoff run. The only way to do that, in my eyes, is by dealing Sanchez.