No pitcher in the American League has been better than the Detroit Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez through the first half of this season, and that puts him directly in the middle of the discussion for AL starter in the 2013 All-Star Game.
As of 7 June, Sanchez has the 7th best ERA in the AL (2.65) and posts a 6-5 W/L record through 78 innings pitched. Hardly the stuff to be a representative of the league, right? On the surface it would appear Sanchez is on the cusp of being considered an All-Star.
If we look at who he’s faced this year, its been a mixed bag of results–some wins against good teams, some losses to bad teams. Looking at those five losses, only two of them haven’t been considered quality starts–five earned runs allowed against the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Outside of that, Sanchez has given up more than two earned runs just once–three in a loss to the Minnesota Twins–and five of his starts have resulted in one or less earned run.
Wins and losses do matter, as does ERA, but with what we have available to further dissect a player allows for further interpretation of a their ability beyond ‘face value’. And that’s exactly how I come to the assessment that Sanchez should be given the ball to start next month at Citi Field.
Coming over from the (now) Miami Marlins last season, moving to the AL can be a bit of an adjustment Sanchez spent six and a half seasons in the National League East and is closing in on one full year in the AL. He’s been fantastic in his short time with the Tigers while actually getting better. His ERA in the NL floated around the mid to upper three’s while his time with the Tigers has seen his ERA drop to sub-three levels. Likewise, his BAA against has gone done an average of about 20 points.
Sanchez is currently (by far) the AL leader in FIP with 1.79–almost a full point ahead of second place Max Scherzer. Likewise, his xFIP is tops in the league, barely ahead of Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish. It should be noted that Sanchez’s BABIP is nearly 30 points above the league average, which is the explanation for his elevated ERA vs FIP and could set him up for a lowered ERA by mid-July.
His K% is third in the league, behind Darvish (34.8%) and .2% behind teammate Justin Verlander. Overall, his K/BB rate is a bit over 5/1, which is good for fifth overall in the AL.How he’s generating those K’s are not with a fastball, but a deceptive change (25% whiff rate) and a sinker (33% whiffs in the month of June) as you can see in the chart below:
Sanchez also is one of the best in baseball preventing home runs, allowing one on just 4% of fly balls–impressive for a guy who has almost half of his contact put in the air. Only Clay Buchholz has been better, allowing just 3.6% of fly balls to leave the park.
Darvish, who some consider to be the best pitcher in the AL, rears his head above Sanchez yet again in the all-encompassing SIERA–2.40 vs Sanchez’s 2.57, good for first and second in the AL.
At this point, it may seem that there is a bit of unevenness to my proclamation of Sanchez’s worth. This is the point where WAR will come in. Though it’s not really a point to use it in its full context, its worthwhile to note that right now Sanchez is tops in the AL with a 3.4.
We still have a month left before the summer classic comes round, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that when Jack Leyland makes his choice for starter, he’ll give the nod to Sanchez.