Revisiting Sanchez After A Good Start

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

On Tuesday night, Anibal Sanchez pitched well! This is the opening sentence of a post because it’s a rare occurrence in 2015. It was his 13th start of the season and it was his 5th good start in terms of runs allowed and his 6th good start by fielding independent numbers. No matter how you slice it, that’s not a good percentage.

But Sanchez was very good on Tuesday, so let’s review a couple of points. First, as I’ve been saying all year, his stuff wasn’t the problem and his good outing supports that point. The movement (below) and velocity (not shown) wasn’t too different from the year at large.

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His release point is another story, as he seems to have shifted on the mound before his last start. You can see one cluster of circles over there in the first shot of the GIF and then Tuesday’s cluster staying out there. He’s clearly making an adjustment this month.

output_rMkVblAnother thing to note is that lefties have killed him inside this year. As seen here:

Screenshot 2015-06-10 at 1.46.00 PM

So on Tuesday, he didn’t come inside to lefties and he lived away.

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I made the case earlier this year that it seemed like Sanchez had simply just gotten crushed on mistakes. That makes some sense, given that we aren’t detecting a “stuff” problem. The ball just didn’t go to the right place in some situations and he got nailed for it. Tuesday, he got tagged once and Rajai took care of that problem, balancing his luck.

A lot of people like to think batted ball velocity is the big factor we don’t capture in FIP and xFIP, but at least as it relates to Sanchez this year, Tuesday’s start was very much in the middle of the pack. It wasn’t like he figured out quality of contact suppression.

Screenshot 2015-06-10 at 2.06.19 PM

Lesson of the day: There wasn’t anything wrong with Sanchez, he just made some mistakes. And that’s a good thing. There’s nothing about his stuff that’s preventing him from pitching well and he hasn’t lost his command wholesale. He got jumped for some dingers  when he hung pitches, but when that doesn’t happen, he looks fine.

Of course he’s to blame for the home runs, but there’s no reason to think he’s doing something that would systematically lead to more homers going forward. Last night, he pitched well. The balls that were hit hard had a low trajectory so they didn’t go for homers. Every pitcher gives up hard contact sometimes and it looks like Sanchez had just decided to give up that contact in the absolute worst kind of cluster to start the year.

Sanchez is fine and his performance on Tuesday hopefully reminds us of that.

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