Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

What’s going on with Aaron Sanchez

It’s been no secret that the Jays rotation has poured buckets of water dousing the hot start they got out to, falling behind the Red Sox and Yankees and struggling to even stay in contention for the second wild card spot. One of the more troubling members of this rotation has been Aaron Sanchez.

After being absolutely dominant in 2016 and then surrendering 2017 to a series of blisters, Sanchez changed up (pun absolutely intended) his repertoire significantly this year. Developing his changeup and favouring it over his curveball looked promising for Sanchez early on in this campaign, however he’s since put together a series of rough outings, culminating in Boston’s rout of the Blue Jays yesterday afternoon. After taking a no-hit bid into the eighth against the Trash Birds during his third start of the year, Sanchez hasn’t pitched more than six innings in a game.

Considering that his curveball was considered to be a very effective pitch during his bid for an ERA title in 2016, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that the blisters have hampered his ability to throw the pitch, and he has looked to replace it with a different pitch, and it’s not yielding the same results. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Using FanGraphs weighted pitch values metric, which measures how many runs above or below average each pitch type in a given pitcher’s repertoire has been, his changeup has fared quite well. Sitting at 1.25 runs above average per 100 pitches (wCH/C), this is better than his curveball was in 2016 (0.68). The most noticeable drop is in his hard pitches (fastball/sinker mix). During his breakout 2016 campaign, his wFB/C sat at a solid 0.95, however this year it’s fallen to -0.67. Looking at isolated power against, you see a noticeable uptick, especially with his sinker, which Brooks Baseball has recorded Sanchez throwing 42.3% of the time. In 2016, opposing hitters had an ISO of .124 against the sinker, however this year it’s jumped to .228.

One thing that’s quite evident is his velocity has dropped a little bit, with his sinker being on average 94.2 mph this year. Meanwhile, his changeup has averaged 88.9mph, only a 5.3mph difference. You’ll always hear that the ideal gap between fastball and changeup velocity is about 8-10 mph, so it’s possible hitters are able to sit on his fastball while still being able to fight off the pitch if it’s a changeup.

Another big issue for Sanchez has been his command in general. He’s walked a insane amount of batters, with yesterday’s game being the first time he’s walked less than two hitters in a game. That lack of command not only leads to a lot of walks, it also means pitches have a tendency to drift to places in the zone that good hitters will crush.

Is that good?

Hopefully as the season wears on, Sanchez will start to settle into a groove. He did miss most of 2017 after all, so hopefully he just needs a bit more time to get his release point back and we’ll start to see him dominate hitters again while being efficient. Sanchez has had some games where he’s looked overpowering, but still had location issues leading to walks and abbreviated outings. At his finest, Sanchez will still be delivering GIF-worthy pitches in the seventh inning. That’s where this team needs him to get back to.

  • Knuckle Balls

    Seems like Sanchez is still sorting himself out like its spring training. Velocity to me is not the concern cause he is conserving himself to get late into games. He is still not locating his pitches. You must command your fastball and he has not done a great job at that. Sanchez always had great movement on his fastball, I have not really seen it this year- different hand grip to avoid blisters?

  • The Humungus

    “He needs to throw some fucking strikes.”

    – Gibbers, probably (it seems like he’s been saying this in his rare mound visits this where he hasn’t changed pitchers)

  • Chappy

    Its the Drew Hutchinson issue. It really doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how good your stuff is, if you can’t locate it, it will routinely get hit and hit hard. If you watch where the catcher is setting up before the pitch, Sanchez is missing the glove more times than not. Pitches are often ending up over the plate and they will continue to get hit until he locates. Hitters just wait for a mistake and capitalize. Sanchez has multiple mistakes every inning and eventually it catches up with him in the form of a big inning for the hitters.