I read an interesting quote from Dave Righetti after last night’s game in the Chronicle:
Sanchez’s velocity has been down considerably in his last two starts. The fastball that Moreland hit out was 89 mph, 3 or 4 mph lower than Sanchez’s standard. Pitching coach Dave Righetti is concerned enough that when asked if he and Bochy must have a serious discussion about Sanchez pitching Game 7, Righetti said, “Damn right. Absolutely. I’m sure it will come up.
The fastball in question came in the 2nd inning when Moreland launched a 3-run HR into the RF seats. Durability has always been an issue that’s followed Sanchez — unfairly, I might add — around since the minor leagues. He’s not a huge guy, instead he’s tall and lanky, and he doesn’t weigh much, either. There is a tug of war that often gets played between pitchers when it comes to physical traits (height, weight, body composition) and talent. Sanchez isn’t “Country Strong” nor does he have “Wide Shoulders” or any of the other catch phrases used to describe “Horses” or pitchers with a big physical presence. Scouts/fans/managers will often zero in on a certain archetype for how a successful pitcher should look — ie: tall, weighs 225+, etc. — and get so locked in that they can’t see anything else. It’s a big reason why Tim Lincecum fell so far to the Giants in the draft.
He was pint-sized, skinny, and didn’t weigh much. Yet, 4 years and 907 strikeouts later, he’s one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.
Sanchez has now thrown a combined inning total of 200+ (193.1 regular season, 20 postseason) for the first time in his professional career. Wondering about how he’s handling his increased workload is a legitimate concern. Sanchez has very good velocity for a LHP SP, but you would probably be surprised to see that his average FB was clocked at 90.5 mph this past season? He works in 91-92 range usually to start games, but settles in to the 90 mph range mostly through the rest of the game. It’s a pattern that he’s shown since he became a starter, and not one that’s different from most starters. I would bet that most starting pitchers lose velocity as the game progresses. Though, there are some exceptions (Edwin Jackson, Ubaldo Jiminez, Justin Verlander).
This is pretty crude, but it’s a line graph that plots Sanchez’s fastball velocity by inning from 2008-2010. The red line is his 2008-2010 average, the blue last night’s game.
Sanchez’s velocity was down last night, especially in the 5th before he left, but keep in mind that he only threw 6 fastballs in that inning.
Data Table for the career average
Inn. Count MPH 1 831 92.3 2 802 91.5 3 691 90.9 4 629 90.5 5 569 90.0 6 379 90.2 7 131 89.6 8 66 90.2 9 26 92.2
Sanchez throws hardest in the 1st inning — usually around 92 mph — but drops down to 90 mph in the middle sections of the game. Comparatively, in last night’s game, Sanchez was down to 88 mph by the 2nd and 3rd innings.
The question then becomes: Is it fatigue? Or did Sanchez just have an off night. I’ll leave that up to the training/coach staff to figure out, but I think Sanchez becomes an easy target for this type of stuff because of his body-type. I get the feeling if a Game 7 needs to be played, the Giants might go with someone else. Let’s hope that it doesn’t get that far. I think that Sanchez gets unfairly dinged sometimes because of durability issues, but the Giants have to be a little concerned — despite his up and down nature — about how he threw the ball last night.