Normally, one bad start out of any given season is hardly what you’d call an indictment of a pitcher’s ability to perform at the MLB level.
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, though, and Jonathan Sanchez might just be one of them.
Things started off innocently enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ fourth starter, as the lefty threw five-plus innings of three-run ball on six hits and a walk in his debut with the team. It wasn’t what you’d call particularly efficient (88 pitches), but considering that he dueled Zack Greinke for five innings, it was something that the team could to take and build on.
Five days later, the wheels fell off once again.
As sad as it may be to say, Wednesday’s 3.1-inning disaster against the Arizona Diamondbacks is far more familiar to the Jonathan Sanchez that has taken the mound over the last two season than the former top prospect who announced himself to the world with a no-hitter in 2009.
All the elements were there: the walks (four), reduced velocity (88.4 mph average fastball), and the homers (two, both to A.J. Pollock). Forget the fact that he gave up a single-game career-high nine runs, this was a pitcher who not only didn’t have it on this day, but just didn’t have it, period.
The San Francisco Giants saw it when Sanchez first ran into problems with his biceps in 2011 and posted a 7.71/1.63 ERA/WHIP over three starts upon his return. The Kansas City Royals, who’d thought they were getting a bounce-back candidate, dealt with a pitcher who walked more batters (7.43 BB/9) than he struck out (6.08 K/9) for 53.1 innings before cutting him loose.
You know, it probably won’t be long before the Pirates end up coming to the same conclusions either.
For now, though, it’s just one game, and the team will almost certainly continue to give Sanchez his shot when he’s due up next time, as long as the rotation’s lack of health demands it.
With a pair of top pitching prospects looming, however, it’s hard to say that the 30-year old is doing much other than keeping the seat warm at this point.