30 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #23: Jonathan Sanchez, SP

I sing the song of Jonathan Sanchez, who continued to flash signs of brilliance while Giants fans waited for the other shoe to drop. When Philly phans started jumping on "Dirty" before he'd even thrown a pitch in Game 2 of the NLCS, you knew it wasn't going to be a good night. He survived the opening inning with minimal damage, but he was throwing hordes of pitches, and he had that familiar look in his eyes — you know, the one that screams: "What the f*** am I doing here in front of all these people?!" It was only a matter of time before that proverbial shoe hit rock bottom...

Meanwhile, I was at a California Dems rally featuring Bill Clinton and Gavin Newsom, registering voters on an iPad and following the game via my pocket radio and the ScoreCenter app on the ol' iPhone. (No, I haven't thrown down for a Slingbox yet.) As every other person in line saw my orange and black lid and earbuds, I was peppered with questions about the score, and it suddenly hit me that the Giants had begun to usurp the public consciousness of the Bay Area. We'd been waiting so long for a winner — since the 49ers last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in the mid-90's — that any significant championship run by any of our local teams created a bandwagon of epic proportions. This would culminate with a Million Fan March on City Hall in early November, but as I braved a light drizzle, doing my civic duty while the most important game of the year played out in my ears, it was still just a thought, a notion, a hope. Sometimes, that's enough to bring a community together. Okay, off my soap box. Back to Dirty...

Pop quiz: Which starter led the Giants' rotation in ERA and BAA in 2010? (Cue Jeopardy! theme...)

If you had Jonathan (freaking) Sanchez, you're right. I've said all along that this guy has the best natural stuff on the squad, and I've taken a number of hits for it, but the numbers are starting to prove me right. In fact, the 27-year-old bundle of nerves has improved his IP, W-L, ERA, HR/9, WHIP, and BAA every year since becoming a full-time starter in 2008, and 2010 was easily his finest season as a pro (13-9, 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .204 BAA). It's no secret to fans that Dirty has been a different pitcher since he no-hit the Padres in '09, and he's slowly but surely continuing his epic trek to consistency. Without much fanfare, he has become a legitimate front-line starter.

On any other team — except perhaps the Phillies — he'd be a No. 1 or 2. With the Giants, he's still No. 3 (and after #MadBum's October, perhaps he's slipped to No. 4 in the hearts of fans and bloggers). That's not only a testament to the strength of the rotation but a commentary on his reputation. If he has more starts like his season-saving performance in Game 162 and less like the epic collapse at Citizens Bank Park, he's going to make a lot of money in this league, and he's going to help his team reach the promised land. Let's hope he's got an SF on his cap when that day finally arrives.

Thanks, Dirty.

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