Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jonathan Sanchez has earned a spot in the Royals' bullpen

It's time to take Jonathan Sanchez out of the Royals' rotation.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Sanchez is getting harder and harder to watch.
  • Wikipedia
  • Sanchez is getting harder and harder to watch.
It can never be said that the Kansas City Royals refuse to be steadfast in their support of mediocre pitching. And the latest statistical atrocity is Jonathan Sanchez. Brought over from San Francisco in an offseason trade for Melky Cabrera, Sanchez won his first game. Since then, the team has gone 2-9 in his starts, and his ERA has ballooned to 7.76. In five of those starts, he has given up at least five runs, including last night's contest against the Seattle Mariners when he gave up five runs before recording a single out. And that was a team hitting .230 before stepping in against Sanchez.

The Royals' mantra has long been that there's nobody else to plug in the rotation, and Sanchez's salary ($5.6 million this year) makes it difficult to take away his spot. But only lasting an average of a little under four and a half innings, Sanchez has already made it clear where he belongs. Instead of forcing manager Ned Yost to run through his bullpen, it's time that Sanchez was on the other end of that call, coming in for mop-up duty in a game that's already out of hand.

Sanchez has the highest walk per nine innings (7.4) and lowest strikeout per nine innings (6.1) of his career. This is not a small statistical sample. It's half a season. Sanchez will tell you that he's had first-half slumps before. And after righting himself in the bullpen in 2009, that's when he was able to come back and throw a no-hitter. He's giving you the answer, Dayton Moore. Let him go to the bullpen and attempt to earn his spot back.

The Royals have trotted out some historically bad pitchers. The late Jose Lima flirted with an ERA of seven back in 2005. Luke Hochevar was at 6.55 in 2009. Kyle Davies had an ERA of 6.75 last year. The team is in the same basic position it has been in the past seven years, 10.5 games out and 12 games under .500. The difference is that the fanbase is finally starting to vocalize its frustration.

Whether it was a carryover from the All-Star Game or the fact that Sanchez recorded four outs and gave up seven runs, Royals fans are no longer content to wait it out. They sarcastically jeered Sanchez after Kyle Seager grounded out and became the first Mariner not to reach base in the top half of the first inning. And they gave Yost a standing ovation when he pulled Sanchez in the second. The fans have questioned whether the pitcher even cares, let alone has a chance to win when he steps on the mound.

I'll happily let you make a case for whomever you want to see on that mound. It can be Everett Teaford or Doug Davis or Will Smith or Vin Mazzaro or Jake Odorizzi. The Royals even have a replacement in the second player acquired in the Cabrera trade. Ryan Verdugo currently has a 6-2 record and a 3.58 ERA for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. To keep trotting out Sanchez is to admit that each game no longer matters because whatever reliever is fresh has essentially been called in to spot start after Sanchez has been rocked.

Put him in the bullpen. Give him the chance to try and throw a little harder for fewer innings. There is no worst-case scenario because Sanchez is the worst-case scenario. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, only Nick Blackburn has a worse ERA (8.10) in the American League, and the Minnesota Twins optioned him to Triple-A two weeks ago. The Twins are a game and a half back of Kansas City.

The Royals can no longer just play out the string. Last night's attendance of 16,697 fans is proof of that. Even if they can't give the fans a postseason berth this year, they can give them some relief from Sanchez.
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