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.
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.