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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cardinals Pitcher Eduardo Sanchez: Human After All

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2011 at 10:14 AM

click to enlarge The way I picture Eduardo Sanchez in my head.
  • The way I picture Eduardo Sanchez in my head.
I say Eduardo Sanchez may be human after all not because he got beaten Wednesday night. Every pitcher, no matter how good, is going to get hit sometimes. No, I say he may be human after all because Sanchez showed a flaw Wednesday night, an actual weakness. 

Another one-run game, another loss for the Cardinals. For the record, that's 10 one-run games they've played in 2011; their record in those contests is 3-7. Given that number, it isn't tough to see why they're under-performing their run differential this season by two games. It's much too small a sample to really draw much in the way of conclusions, but that doesn't keep it from being frustrating as hell. 

Last night we may have finally found the chink in Eduardo Sanchez's armor: bad umpiring. The Cards' young fireballing Venezuelan has been kicking ass and taking names ever since he arrived in St. Louis, and to this point it doesn't seem like much of anything has fazed him. He's gone right after some of the best hitters in baseball without fear, kept his cool with men on base, and shaken off shaky defense and legitimate hits alike. 

But none of that kept him from losing his cool in the face of Bob Davidson's Moving Strike Zone. 

Bob Davidson's Moving Strike Zone. I like to think of it kind of like "Howl's Moving Castle", only instead of a castle it's a strike zone. And instead of a dude named Howl it's an umpire named Bob. Are you following me so far? Good. 

Anyway, for the first time since Sanchez has been with the big club, he seemed to noticeably lose his composure after Davidson failed to give him a strike call against Hanley Ramirez in the ninth inning. In fairness to Sanchez, he did throw at least three, and possibly four, strikes to Ramirez in the course of walking the Marlins' shortstop. Ball four wasn't even borderline; it was well within the zone. (Also, for the record, Bob Davidson has a well-known reputation as one of the very worst umpires in the game, particularly in the balls-and-strikes arena.) It's tough enough being handed a tied game and trying to navigate through the heart of the opposition's offense; add in an umpire who refuses to call the strike zone properly and it's just piling on. 

click to enlarge The way Eduardo Sanchez pictures himself in his head.
  • The way Eduardo Sanchez pictures himself in his head.
​It was easy to see Sanchez was visibly agitated about the missed calls, but he mostly collected himself and continued on. He struck out Gaby Sanchez on three straight, and it looked like he might pull through. One fastball with bad location later, though, and Mike Stanton put a ball over the wall in center, and a tied game had become a two-run deficit. 

​While the umpiring was absolutely atrocious last night, that doesn't excuse Sanchez's mini-meltdown. He clearly let the bad calls affect him, and wasn't his usual composed self afterward. 

Hopefully it can be a learning experience for Eduardo, who has done nothing but succeed in the majors to this point. One of the most important qualities a closer has to have is a short memory; he can't take a bad outing or a bad pitch with him to the next night. You blow a save, you may very well have to go right back out there the next game and do your job. You can take that down further, as well; you can't take a bad inning to the next inning, or a bad result from one hitter into the next at-bat, or a bad pitch into the next pitch. 

Or, the lesson Sanchez will hopefully learn from this: you can't let the umpire beat you. Umpires are going to miss calls. It's up to the pitcher to move on and make sure he controls what he can control and not let a bad call ruin your night. 

It's all part of the process for a 22 year old kid in the big leagues for the first time, but it's a lesson you hope he learns after just one time. The Cardinals can't afford to have Sanchez be a slow learner. 

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