There is this queasy feeling in the pit of the Fan's stomach because every day it becomes more clear that this writer often doesn't know what the heck he is talking about. This old guy has attempted to become conversant with the amazing number of statistics now bandied about. As a result, this Fan has little confidence that he can truly figure out a player's worth with any degree of accuracy. To be sure, people out there must be able to come close to figuring out that kind of thing. But the Fan would hazard a guess that there are more people in this writer's boat than are in the accurate elite ("elite" is not used here as a derogatory, just so you know). Most people would probably be in this writer's boat by stating that Jonathan Sanchez is a great pitcher who had a great year. But every time this observer watches Sanchez pitch, the feeling is always, "Is this all there is?"
No doubt the feeling comes from watching Sanchez pitch game after game where he has 80+ pitches notched by the fourth inning. Sanchez averaged 5.818 innings per start (yes, the Fan did throw out his one relief appearance). Or perhaps it is the fact that only 46.8% of his pitches are actually in the strike zone. He is often fortunate that anyone ever swings at one of his pitches. The figure, by the way, was the lowest of his career. His first pitch strike percentage was also the lowest of his career. There is no doubt that some of his success was due to the fact that more batters facing Sanchez swung at more pitches out of the strike zone than ever before. That's called O-Swing Percentage for those who need to know. So he threw less pitches in the strike zone, he threw less first pitch strikes and yet more batters swung at pitches outside the strike zone.
But what about the quality of his opponents? Giving you a full rundown of his game log for 2010 would stretch your patience. Besides, you can do that yourself at baseball-reference.com. Let's just do a summary:
Great games: April (2) Pittsburgh, San Diego. Not very good offenses. May (1) San Diego ibid. June (1) Orioles before they became the fighting Showalters. July (1) Mets. August (3) Colorado at Colorado. Okay, that's impressive; Phillies. Impressive again but the Phillies were struggling at the time. Colorado at home. September (2) Dodgers twice. Torre's team was dead in the water by September.
Good games: April (1) Phillies. But that is a stretch as he gave up 9 base runners in five innings covering 106 pitches. May (3) Mets, Oakland, Arizona. 19 innings, 4 homers, 329 pitches, 9 walks, but only 7 earned runs. June (1) Pittsburgh. July (1) Brewers. 6 innings, 11 base runners but only one run. August (0). September (1) Arizona.
So-So games: April (1) Phillies. Five innings, nine base runners, 107 pitches. May (1) San Diego. 4 runs on 7 hits, no walks. June (1) Cincinnati. Five innings, ten base runners, 3 runs. July (1) Arizona. Five innings, one run, 109 pitches, 10 base runners. August (1) Padres in a loss. Five plus innings. September (2) Cubs, Padres.
Bad games: April (1) Braves. May (1) Rockies. June (3) Red Sox, Dodgers, Blue Jays. July (2) Nationals, Marlins. August (2) Braves, Reds. September (0).
If the Fan is looking at all that right, then the only quality offenses Sanchez had either a great or good outing against was the Rockies twice and the Phillies twice. So, in conclusion, Sanchez's statistics are somewhat misleading. He doesn't fare well against good offenses as the post season is clearly showing us. A conclusion which many of you will probably confirm that the opening statement of this post is true in that the Fan probably doesn't know what he is talking about.