When you’re teammates with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer you learn pretty quickly that you have to share the spotlight on the bump (you can read more about Verlander in his Player Profile). One would assume that Anibal Sanchez is fine with that. Why not let the other two fellas take on the heat and shoulder the burden of expectations? I wonder though if we’ve taken it too far with Sanchez, the best #3 starter in baseball in 2014.
Who led the AL in ERA? It sure wasn’t Scherzer (2.90) or Verlander (3.46). Nope, it was Anibal Sanchez at 2.57. The guy had the best ERA in the Junior Circuit and he was roundly regarded as the third best pitcher on his team in 2013.
Yu Darvish led the league with 277 Ks and Max Scherzer was second at 240. In fourth spot was Verlander (217) while Sanchez was sixth (202). However, check out each Tigers’ hurlers K/9 mark: Verlander 8.95, Sanchez 9.99, Scherzer 10.08. Sanchez almost led in that category as well as his 9.99 mark was third best in baseball behind Scherzer and Darvish 0 11.89.
Pretty surprising, right? There’s more.
Sanchez won 14 games against eight loses. Verlander went 13-12.
Sanchez had a 1.15 WHIP. Verlander’s mark was 1.31.
Sanchez held batters to a .229 BAA. Verlander’s mark was .253.
Sanchez allowed only nine homers. Scherzer allowed 18, Verlander 19.
Sanchez walked 54 batters, Scherzer 56 and Verlander 75.
Sanchez was a dominant hurler in 2013. In fact, do you know how many hurlers won 14 games, struck out 200, had an ERA under 3.00 an a WHIP under 1.20? The answer is five: Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Scherzer and Sanchez.
Sanchez was an elite hurler in 2013 an a fantasy superstar given his draft day cost. He likely won championships. Let’s break him down in some detail.
The most obvious place to start is with Anibal’s workload. A full time hurler for four years, Sanchez has thrown at least 180-innings every season an in this day and age that’s pretty solid. However, to be considered elite in many instances you need to be throwing 200+ innings a season. Sanchez has never thrown 200 innings in a season and his total of 182 in 2013 was actually a four year low. Injuries pop up over the course of the season, they have every year, for the talented righty. That’s going to limit his upside and add to his risk factor at the draft table.
I mentioned the Ks earlier, and his 9.99 K/9 mark was elite. It’s also the best mark of his career. Back in 2011 he also had 202 Ks but since he threw 14.1 more innings his K/9 rate that season was 9.26, another impressive mark. I bring that up because we’ve got some oddness here. In four seasons as a full-time starter here are his K/9 marks: 7.25, 9.26, 7.68 and 9.99. Which guy will we get in 2014? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. In favor of the larger number is the fact that after 3-straight years of his heater being clocked in the 91 mph range that number went up in 2013 to 93. His pitched distribution was extremely similar in his slider and curveball usage 2013 to his career rates with one outlier – his change up and fastball usage. Sanchez has thrown the change 16 percent of the time for his career. In 2013 he threw it 24 percent of the time. With the extra heat on his heater widening the gap between the #1 and #3 pitches (his fastball rate dipped from 52 percent down to 47 percent), perhaps that lends credence to the belief that a similar pitch distribution in 2014 will once again lead to a huge punchout total.
Sanchez kept the walks in check and for the third straight year walked less than three batters per nine innings leading to a third straight season with a K/BB ratio over 3.15. Not only was his 3.74 mark a career best but it also continued a trend that is now up to 4-straight seasons of an improving K/BB ratio.
Mr. Consistency is Sanchez in BABIP. Here are his last four season numbers: .305, .310, .310 and .307. That’s pretty amazing actually. His line drive rate has been a bit elevated the last two years at 21.7 percent, two percentage points above his career 19.6 percent mark, but neither figure is outlandish. What is outlandish in ’13 though was his HR/F ratio. After back-to-back seasons with identical marks of 0.92 that total fell more than 100 percent down to 0.45. After back-to-back seasons with a HR/F ratio in the 10′s the mark fell to 5.8 in 2013. It should inch up a bit moving forward.
Sanchez is a strong option in 2014 if you don’t have to pay full price. If I were to just look at his numbers, to discount his workload and injury history, I’d look at Sanchez as a potential top-15 arm. However, I can’t remove the name from the back of his jersey in this analysis. I also can’t ignore the fact that his K/9 rate has been on a roller coaster ride the past four years. Sanchez will likely be overdrafted because of what might end up being a career best effort of 2013. He’ll be solid in 2014 but it’s very difficult for me to envision another 200+ Ks with an ERA under 3.00 so make sure you don’t go all in to acquire his services.
By Ray Flowers