The list reads like this: Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Sanchez, Yovani Gallardo, Jake Peavy, and Zack Greinke. One of these things is not like the others. One of things may have appeared to be like the others, but like the others he is no more. The aforementioned crop of names are from a graphic listing the starting pitchers with the highest strikeouts per nine innings from 2006-2012. It appeared on screen before the start of the third inning during a FOX Royals broadcast on April 14th of last season, this may be the last time that Sanchez was mentioned in the same breath as hurlers the likes of Kershaw and Greinke.
Sanchez lasted just 2.2 innings versus the Cleveland Indians that day. He managed to work through the first two innings fairly effectively, before imploding on account of a series of walks, a Jarrod Dyson error, and the Indians hitting him all over the field. Sanchez would hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch, too. Choo took exception with Sanchez, but what can you expect from a man who left what little semblance of control he ever had in San Francisco?
Jonathan Sanchez was once a pretty good pitcher. Command was always an issue for the left-hander, but high strikeout rates helped him settle in nicely as mid-rotation guy with the Giants. Hell, he struck out 11 Atlanta Braves over 7.1 innings in 2010 NLDS. Sanchez pitched in the 2010 World Series. He was terrible, taking a loss in a 4.2 inning outing, but you get the picture.
So here we are today and Sanchez has signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is a Minor League deal with an invite to spring training. Sanchez’s 2012 season was nothing short of a disaster. He threw 64.2 innings with the Royals and Rockies, registering numbers not even Vin Mazzaro could love: 8.07 ERA; 6.60 FIP; 6.46 xFIP. Our good friend and Getting Blanked contributor Wendy Thurm took a look at what went wrong with Sanchez last season, citing declining fastball velocity and a highly hittable changeup as contributing factors to his slide into awfulness.
Whatever the case, Jonathan Sanchez is just not that good anymore. The Pirates’ rotation currently features A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald as the only locks. Jeff Karstens will compete for a starting job, and the club continues to work on signing Francisco Liriano. Sanchez sans velocity and control seems like a longshot to make the club as a starter.
This is just a case of the Neal Huntington and the Pirates pinning some hope on past performance. There’s no risk involved in bringing Sanchez to camp on a Minor League deal. If he can gain some velocity back and contribute then this could look like a nice signing, but I wouldn’t count on it.