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« 2011's True Hackers | Main | Phillies Add Thome's Pop for Peanuts »
Monday
Nov072011

Jonathan Sanchez on the Block

Looking to free up some cash to add punch to an offense that brought up the rear in run scoring in the NL last season, the Giants are reportedly shopping left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez, 29 later this month, averaged 9.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and 2.3 Wins Above Replacement per season from 2008-2010. But this past year, Sanchez channeled Oliver Perez. He still struck out a batter per inning, but his walk rate (5.9 BB/9) was highest among starters and he was limited to just 101.1 frames due to biceps tendinitis and a right ankle sprain.

San Francisco could non-tender Sanchez, who MLBTradeRumors projects to pull down $5.2 million is his final season of arbitration eligibility. But the more likely scenario is that the Giants ship him to a club that finds the free agent market for starters unappealing and is willing to take a chance on Sanchez in hopes that he returns to health and keeps his walk rate under five per nine.

If Sanchez is going to return to form in 2012, he'll need to do a much better job of keeping right-handed hitters off the base paths. Righties got on base at a .372 clip against Sanchez in 2011. Among lefties who faced 300+ righty batters, only Brian Duensing, Phil Coke and Danny Duffy had higher opponent OBPs against those swinging from the opposite side.

Sanchez's problems with righties are two-fold. For one, his rather zipless fastball (89.7 mph average, down a tick from 2010) didn't miss as many bats and missed the strike zone more often. Right-handers came up empty 18 percent of the time they swung at Sanchez's fastball, compared to 21 percent the previous three seasons, and his percentage of strikes thrown with the pitch dipped to 59 percent from 62 percent over 2008-2010. Sanchez frequently missed to the arm side in 2011:

Sanchez's fastball location vs. right-handed hitters, 2011

His other main problem against righties was that he lost the feel for his breaking stuff. Sanchez threw his slider for a strike just 53 percent of the time against right-handers, well below his 62 percent average the previous three years. He located lots of sliders below batters' knees...

Sanchez's slider location vs. RHB, 2011

 ...But they weren't biting. Check out righty hitters' swing rate by pitch location against Sanchez's sliders, compared to the MLB average for lefty pitchers versus right-handed batters:

 Right-handed hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Sanchez's slider, 2011

League average swing rate vs. sliders for RHB vs. LHPRighties chased 30 percent of Sanchez's sliders off the plate in 2011, compared to 33 percent from '08 to '10 and the 36 percent big league average for LHP vs. RHB. That's a significant change, considering that Sanchez's percentage of sliders thrown in the zone fell from 48 percent from '08 to '10 to just 39 percent in 2011.

Sanchez's injury and control woes probably mean that he wouldn't bring back much more than salary relief and a C-level prospect in a trade. Given that likely lukewarm return, the Giants might be best off holding on to Sanchez instead of expecting a full season's workload form Eric Surkamp or a return to relevance from Barry Zito.

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