San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez has never been known as a control pitcher, but the 28-year-old lefty is having serious problems finding the strike zone in 2011. Sanchez has issued 5.6 walks per nine innings pitched, by far the highest rate among starters qualified for the ERA title.
Sanchez's control woes stem from his fastball. He's not locating the pitch in the zone as much as he did last season. Instead, he's missing off the plate to his arm side more often:
Frequency of Jonathan Sanchez's fastball location in 2010 (left) and 2011 (right)
Sanchez located 52.1 percent of his fastballs within the strike zone in 2010. In 2011, that rate has fallen to 49.5 percent (the MLB average is about 52 percent).
Considering that hitters are chasing fewer of Sanchez's fastballs this year (21.5 percent, compared to 22.7 percent in 2010), that has translated into fewer strikes thrown. Sanchez got strikes with his heater 63.1 percent of the time in 2010, but just 60.3 percent in 2011 (64 percent MLB average).
Sanchez's fastball velocity is down, too: he averaged 90.6 MPH with the pitch last season, but he's averaging about one MPH less in 2011. During a rocky June in which Sanchez has walked more batters (19) than he has struck out (15), he's sitting at 89.2 MPH with the pitch.
Despite a wheezing offensive attack, the Giants sit just a half-game back of the Diamondbacks in the NL West standings due to superb starting pitching. If Sanchez is going to help the defending world champs moving forward, he'll have to cut out the Oliver Perez impression.