On Wednesday, June 20, the Blue Jays look to salvage a win against the Atlanta Braves. Anibal Sanchez will climb the hill for Atlanta while J.A. Happ will take the ball for the Blue Jays.
Anibal Sanchez has not aged smoothly over his career. After finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2013, the veteran starter’s skill steadily dropped off. For example, his ERA+ in 2013 was 162; in the years following it steadily dropped off to 113, 80, 73, and 71. Slowly, the former Tigers starter went from a dominant pitcher, to a fringe major league arm.
Despite this, the 34-year-old has been much better this season, posting a 1.93 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 0.964 WHIP, and 202 ERA+. However, while his ERA, WHIP, and ERA+ are all excellent, his FIP is concerning.
The Atlanta starter’s FIP, which sits at 4.17, suggesting that he has benefitted from a very good defence. However, this won’t last forever. Since his FIP is so much higher than his ERA, he is bound for a natural regression at some point this season.
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The veteran’s BABIP, which determines his FIP, currently sits at a very low .206. In his career he has never come near a number this low. In fact, even in his Cy Young finalist year in 2013, his BABIP was over one hundred points higher, at .307. Therefore, the right-hander should, over the course of this season, give up about 10% more hits than he currently has.
Furthermore, his LOB% sits at an unrealistic 90.3%. This statistic is also the beneficiary of some ball in play luck. Last year his LOB% was 67.1%, and it was 64.7% the season before that. Therefore, unless Sanchez has unlocked a secret to pitching, he will start to regress and give up hits in these big situations. As a result, his ERA will steadily climb upwards where it belongs.
The right-handed hurler has a vast collection of pitches to choose from on Wednesday. Through six starts this season, he has mixed between a four seam fastball, change-up, cutter, slider, sinker, and curveball.
The righty has used his four seam fastball 28.5% of the time, while averaging a velocity of 90.71 mph. The heater has not been effective this season, allowing three home runs, a .680 SLGA, and a horrendous .400 ISO against. As well, the fastball has resulted in just two strikeouts to four walks.
Sanchez has changed speeds on batters 22.6% of the time this season. The off speed pitch maintains a velocity of 80.87 mph, with a fair amount of glove side fade and drop. As a result of the plus movement , it has resulted in a fair amount of whiffs, missing bats on 35.53% of swings.
The right-hander has fired home cutters 18.4% of the time this season. The cutter has produced ground balls at a high rate of 60% of balls. Clearly these ground balls have found gloves, as well. Through seven appearances, the righty has allowed a tiny .103 AVG against the cut-fastball.
The veteran starter has thrown poorly breaking sliders 11.3% of the time this season. The breaking ball is quite slow, averaging 83.32 mph. The slider drops and cuts to the glove-side just enough to miss some bats. Despite the insignificant movement on the pitch, it has held batters to a paltry .133 BAA and .333 SLGA.
Sanchez completes his offerings with occasional sinkers and curveballs. The sinker has been used 10.4% of the time, while the hook has been used 8.8% of the time. The sinker has produced ground balls at a poor rate of 30.77% of balls in play. As well, it has allowed line drives at a very high rate of 53.85% of balls in play. The curve has been much better, holding batters to a 50% ground ball rate, while allowing just two hits across the season.
The Blue Jays have pretty good numbers against the Venezuala native. Kendrys Morales leads the charge for the blue birds, achieving ten hits, including two doubles and a home run, in 31 career at-bats against the veteran starter. As well, Kevin Pillar has been excellent, producing five hits in 12 at-bats. However, Justin Smoak has managed just two hits in 19 at-bats against the former Marlin.
To an unknowing viewer, it would seem that the 34-year-old has found his craft and excellent form again. However, after looking at his FIP, it is clear that he has been lucky on more than a few occasions, and this will eventually change. The Blue Jays as a team have hit for a .818 OPS against the veteran, so they may be able to enact this regression and knock the starter around a little bit.