Why Jonathan Sanchez Does Not Belong in the San Francisco Giants' Rotation

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IAugust 11, 2009

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

Even without throwing a no-hitter, the entire baseball world was aware that Jonathan Sanchez had no-hit talent. And to use the stereotypical baseball phrase, Sanchez has what fans and scouts a like refer to as "electric stuff."

But as Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow so eloquently states time and time again, pitching is "upsetting the timing of the hitter." Not only was Krukow a respected starter in his day, but I have yet to hear anyone argue his definition of pitching.

Therefore, if pitching is about "upsetting the timing of a hitter," then Sanchez does not understand how to pitch. Over recent memory, there has been no other San Francisco starting pitcher that has been as egregiously inaccurate as the Giants' current No. 4 starter.

With the major inconsistencies that Sanchez is known for, it baffles most Giants fans that there are still a select few orange and black faithful who are glad the Giants have yet to trade/demote their No. 4 starter.

But the fact is the Giants are in the midst of a playoff race and during the stretch run and perhaps during the postseason, do you really want to have Sanchez on the mound?

Personally, I would rather Kirk Rueter come out of retirement to throw a game in the playoffs. He may only throw 75 mph at his age, but at least he will be consistent to a corner.

Now I'll admit, bringing "Woody" back is a major stretch, but when a pitcher has to make a quality pitch, managers certainly trust pitchers in the mold of Rueter more than they do pitchers in the mold of Sanchez.

Consequently, when it comes down to a must-win game and neither Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, or Barry Zito are fresh, Joe Martinez and Kevin Pucetas would be better options than Sanchez.

But despite having an impressive season at Triple-A Fresno, Pucetas has yet to be called up. So far on the season, Pucetas is 10-3 with a 3.74 ERA and averages just 2.77 walks per nine innings.

Yet Sanchez is 5-9 with a 4.49 ERA going into his latest start against the Dodgers. Supporters of the southpaw can talk all they want about how Sanchez was throwing well going into his start against Los Angeles, but there are zero signs showing him becoming a consistent starter at the major league level.

Now are big-league hitters better than Triple-A hitters? Of course, but with Sanchez' wildness, even minor league hitters would take base on balls after base on balls against him.

So far on the season, Sanchez has averaged 5.01 walks per nine innings. But that number isn't the worst part, because his career average is 4.67 walks per nine innings. Therefore, the year in which he throws a no-hitter and is supposed to be "coming into his own" as a pitcher, Sanchez has actually been more wild than in his previous years at the big league level.

As the old saying goes "you cannot defend the walk" and with Sanchez on the mound, he could allow just one hit in an inning and yet give up anywhere from three to five earned runs.

Take into account Monday's start against the Dodgers. It wasn't Matt Kemp's three-run double that led to Sanchez' demise. Rather, the two walks in the inning is what essentially killed Sanchez and the Giants' chances at winning. Following a one-out single by Manny Ramirez, Sanchez proceeded to walk both Orlando Hudson and Casey Blake.

To be fair, a good portion of base on balls make fans think to themselves "Wow! What a take! What a great eye ball!!!"

But if you watch Jonathan Sanchez on a consistent basis, you would understand that the overwhelming majority of his ball fours are nowhere near tempting to swing at. Actually, come to think of it, most of his pitches outside the zone aren't tempting to swing at, much less only ball fours.

Now with Sanchez being the definition of the word "inconsistent," even on a pitch-to-pitch basis, one would think the Giants would realize the best spot for him is the bullpen.

The "electric stuff" that Sanchez throws would be perfect for a manager who needed a lefty reliever to face a lefty slugger like Adrian Gonzalez. In a one-on-one situation, Sanchez can be filthy.

But if Gonzalez is seeing him for the second or third time in the game, he will easily know what Sanchez has working and not working. In a single at-bat, it will be harder for opposing hitters to zone in on a single pitch.

When Sanchez is starting a game, his wildness makes him prone to relying heavily on his fastball and not being able to attack the corners. With so many 3-0, 3-1, and 2-0 counts, opposing hitters can sit on the fastball and sit on a location.

When that happens, more often than not, two things happen: The hitter gets his pitch and drives it or takes the walk.

However, if used for short stints out of the bullpen, Sanchez could be effective. His odd delivery which makes it seem as if he is going to blow out his elbow every pitch is common with left-handed relievers. At the same time, the majority of successful left-handed starters have a more over-the-top release.

When you think of guys like Barry Zito, C.C. Sabathia, Tom Glavine, Jamie Moyer, Johan Santana, Cole Hamels, etc., they all have much more compact motions with a higher arm slot. 

Hence, it is clear that Sanchez is best fit for the pen when you take into consideration all aspects of his game. His inconsistencies, his "electric stuff," his delivery, and his inability to shake off bad innings and get back on track are all signs that he is best suited for the pen.

With both Zito and Madison Bumgarner as the lefties in next year's rotation, Sanchez most likely won't be a starter next year. 

But if the Giants organization wants to wait until then and risk Sanchez blowing a must-win game in September or, even yet, a must-win playoff game in October, then by all means let him continue to start.

You'll only be letting down the other 24 players on the roster.


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