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The Return of Jonathan Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez is back! Who is this mysterious fellow? According to Baseball Reference, Sanchez is a minor league outfielder who used to be in the Mets' system. He didn't hit, and he was converted to a pitcher for a couple of innings before he was released, but apparently he's starting for the Giants tonight. That's odd. Good luck, kid!

edit: I knew that couldn't be right. Turns out the Giants also have a starting pitcher named Jonathan Sanchez, and he's returning from the minors today. Weird. The rest of the post will focus on him.

Remember when the Phillies signed Cliff Lee? He's good. But that's not the point, the point is that it set off a firestorm of "Are the Phillies' pitchers the best collection of best of all-time ever?" articles. The Giants, who had just won the World Series after a two-month run of once-in-a-century pitching, had their honeymoon cut short. Couldn't think straight over the sound of all that phillatio.

Part of the reason Giants fans were so upset was that we were feeling understandably good about our pitching. Kind of won the team a championship, it did. Then all of a sudden, these show-offs were yabbering about their pitching as if they'd already won something. Giants fans were like, "Whoa, did you forget about us? You know, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Sanchez? Hellllo?" You'd think that we trailed off at that last part -- like when we got to Sanchez, we'd start to mumble and kick a pebble on the ground. But, no, we were serious! It was adorable.

Let's resort to analogies:

Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez

Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Casino, The King of Comedy, Raging Bull, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Mean Streets, Shutter Island

Sgt. Peppers, Abbey Road, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, White Album, Please Please Me, a mix tape with "Free as a Bird" and "Yellow Submarine" on a loop.

Is that unfair to Sanchez? Oh, by about half, at least. He really was an effective pitcher last year, and he was getting deeper into games. His start against the Padres in game 162 helped the Giants into the playoffs, and his start against the Braves helped the Giants stay close enough to allow for a conradical conclusion. The duds in the NLCS, and one Mitch Moreland homer in the World Series, dampened the excitement just a bit, but he was still supposed to be one of the reasons the Giants were right to be optimistic this year. 

But he regressed this year. The 3.81 ERA obscures just how hard it's been to watch Sanchez pitch. The 5.9 BB/9 is a career high -- he's already walked more hitters this year (59) in 89-2/3 innings than Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay walked last season combined (48) in 463 innings.  With the emergence of Ryan Vogelsong, the pitcher who used to be included as a part of the Giants' big four is kind of an afterthought now.

He's back. Sanchez is back. And, hey, it's those wacky Phillies! Right as our expectations are at their lowest for Sanchez, he's going against the team that he faced when our expectations were at their highest. How symmetrical. Sanchez pitched in three minor-league games to rehab. How'd he do? Walked a bunch of dudes. Struck some guys out. Weird.

After the latest Zito implosion, I don't think I'll take Jonathan Sanchez for granted, exactly, but he's still the odd man when it comes to any discussions of the Giants/Phillies Great Rotation Rivalry of the New Decade. I've given up on the idea that he's a late-bloomin' lefty, like a Mark Langston or Sandy Koufax. I'm just hoping he's the Jonathan Sanchez of last year. That would be awesome. Here's hoping ...

Welcome back, Jonathan. Now throw some damned strikes.

Also, anyone who defends Shutter Island as anything but a waste of time and talent will have their comment deleted and account terminated.