On Facing Jonathan Sanchez for the First Time

The Rockies are weird. The Rockies are awful. I wrote about it here. The Rockies' starting rotation currently has the worst ERA of any Rockies team in history. That's with the humidor. Before the humidor, a pitcher could have a 5.41 ERA and still be considered something of a league-average pitcher. Even with those conditions, the Rockies have never had a worse starting staff.

Here's a good way to explain it: The Rockies, being of sound mind and body, actively and willingly agreed to acquire Jonathan Sanchez and put him in their starting rotation.

Normally, all I can think about before a trip into Coors Field is the Giants' history there. Neifi homering off Nen. Spilborghs. Other assorted atrocities. Coors Field scarred me when I first started becoming obsessive about baseball in 1996 and 1997. I was trying to figure out the nuances of the game, trying to absorb baseball as much as possible, and for a handful of games, the Giants would have to go to Colorado and play blarnffzzball on planet Q. It wasn't baseball. And I resented it.

Now? All I can think about is Jonathan Sanchez pitching against the Giants for the first time in his career. It comes at the perfect point in the Giants' season. You might think they've bottomed out, and it's all up from here. That's the hope anyway. But you also know the descent can go on and on and on. You watched the team in August. Like a man getting stabbed with a trident, these things can get out of hand quickly. Which brings up Jonathan Sanchez, the canary in the coal mine.

I don't think you can really appreciate how bad Sanchez has been this year. I certainly can't. I know what bad Sanchez looks like, and it's the least-watchable pitcher in the game. But even when he was in a rut with the Giants, he'd still sprinkle in a quality outing. Instead, check out this game log:

Rk Date Opp IP H ER BB SO ERA Pit Str
1 Apr 8 LAA 5.0 4 2 3 4 3.60 99 59
2 Apr 14 CLE 2.2 6 5 4 1 8.22 75 38
3 Apr 18 DET 5.0 4 2 3 3 6.39 97 60
4 Apr 24 CLE 4.2 4 4 7 5 6.75 115 56
5 May 2 DET 5.0 1 0 2 2 5.24 82 43
6 May 7 BOS 3.0 6 6 3 3 6.75 73 35
7 Jun 13 MIL 5.0 7 1 2 4 5.93 96 64
8 Jun 18 HOU 6.0 6 3 4 3 5.70 106 61
9 Jun 24 STL 5.2 4 6 6 3 6.21 111 61
10 Jun 30(1) MIN 4.1 10 6 6 4 6.80 101 56
11 Jul 6 DET 5.2 6 4 3 2 6.75 101 60
12 Jul 16 SEA 1.1 7 7 1 2 7.76 50 30
13 Jul 23 ARI 4.0 6 5 4 5 8.01 82 47
14 Jul 29 CIN 4.1 8 6 2 3 8.32 84 48
61.2 79 57 50 44 8.32


In exactly three games, Sanchez made the Royals think, "Oh! Maybe this is the pitcher we thought we were getting!" All three of those were a five-inning starts. Those were Sanchez's peaks in 2012 -- a trio of five-inning starts that taxed his bullpen. He has been as bad in 14 starts as just about any starting pitcher in baseball history. His velocity has been sinking like a Scott Munter sinkball, I'll tell you what.

Now he's pitching in Coors Field. Nothing about this should work. If he were down in AAA pitching for the Sky Sox, I'd wager he'd get hit nearly as hard.

Here come the Giants, then. They can't possibly have a poor game against Sanchez in Coors, right? I know we like to joke about immovable objects and unstoppable forces, but come on. The Giants' offense might be distasteful, but Sanchez is clearly worse at pitching this year than the Giants are at hitting.

This is a bellwether game, a game to let you know just how far in the quicksand the Giants can possibly sink. I usually don't like to make too much out of one game, but this has the feeling of a game that could act as a demarcation line. This is the game that you might point to in November and say, "There. That's where things went (good/bad/screwy)."

I don't take any relish in how bad Sanchez has become, mind you. He was the triple-hitting wunderkind who pitched the Giants into the playoffs in 2010. Without Sanchez pitching well, there never is a Brooks Conrad error that means anything. And of course ...

He was a good Giant. Good Giant. Here's a Giant biscuit and some skritches behind the ears, you good Giant. Gooooood Giant. I'd like to think I'd be writing this if it were about Kyle Davies or some such. But the idea that it's Sanchez almost certainly makes the whole thing seem more dramatic.

If the Giants get shut down tonight, it's not like I'm going to jump off the bandwagon. But I'll at least ask the bandwagon attendant for some strong drinks and a few bags of honey-roasted peanuts. That way, I can get drunk and eat honey-roasted peanuts. By the time I wake up, hopefully the bandwagon will be somewhere pleasant.

That's really the only way to live. Do us proud, Giants. Do us proud. Also, don't embarrass the absolute crap out of us.

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