Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Evaporating Season of Anibal Sanchez

According to Fangraphs, Anibal Sanchez was the 26th most valuable starting pitcher in baseball last season. He finished with eight wins. Somewhere, someone is shouting, "He just doesn't know how to win!" But seriously, to put Sanchez's season in context (if you believe WAR), Sanchez was just a tick less valuable than Zack Greinke in 2011. Greinke won sixteen games. He was as valuable as Edwin Jackson who at least won twelve games. Sanchez was a tick more valuable than Tim Hudson (sixteen wins), Jon Lester (fifteen) and Jaime Garcia (thirteen). The eight win total was shocking considering that Sanchez was 6-1 on June 10, 2011. He only "won" two more games the rest of the season. So what the heck happened?

According to his player page on, Sanchez had a decent first half/second half split. He was only slightly less effective in the second half, but you have to dig to find it. Here are some numbers from the splits (first half listed first, followed by the second half):

  • ERA - 3.58/3.78
  • WHIP - 1.230/1.344
  • K/9 - 9.3/9.2
  • BB/9 - 3.29/3.04
  • BABIP - .311/..325

Again, looking at those numbers, there is not really a significant breakdown in those splits to go from a 6-2 record in the first half to a 2-7 record in the second half. You might even explain away the higher WHIP with the higher BABIP. If you look at the team stats, the Marlins were slightly better on offense in the second half and middle of the pack and league average in defensive efficiency. So again, why did Sanchez not win more than two games after June 10?

The evidence (and admittedly, it's speculative) seems to point to the fact that after his June 10 start, Anibal Sanchez got a new manager. Why would that make a difference? Different managers have different styles, especially in the National League. Some will leave their starters in longer before pinch hitting for them. Some give more latitude and both appear to be the case with Jack McKeon when it came to Anibal Sanchez.

In the first half of the season, Anibal Sanchez averaged 6.27 innings per start. In the second half, that average went down to 5.95 innings per start. But even that is somewhat misleading because June 10 was quite a bit before the start of the second half. On June 10, before Jack McKeon, Sanchez averaged 6.56 innings per start. Under McKeon the rest of the way, Sanchez averaged 5.84 innings per start.

For whatever reason, McKeon did not trust Sanchez as much as Edwin Rodriguez did and had a quicker hook. A quicker hook would give Sanchez a significantly more difficult time winning games than otherwise. It might also account for some of the higher second half stats as he didn't get enough innings to balance them out. Who knows, perhaps Sanchez was on an innings count for the season. But this writer didn't hear of such a thing. But there does appear to be at least a hint of a suggestion as to why the 2011 season evaporated for Anibal Sanchez.

He will again have a new manager in 2012 in Ozzie Guillen. It will be interesting to see what happens and how long Guillen's patience with his starters will last. Guillen has been an American League manager for a long time so his performance with the pitching and pinch hitting will be fun to watch. It seems to this observer that Guillen would be wise to give Anibal Sanchez a bit more latitude because this guy can pitch.

Addendum *** Since this post was published, a rabid Marlins' fan on Twitter (@LoMoDimples) noted that this writer didn't mention the offense as part of the problem. It's a valid point. In Sanchez's first thirteen starts, the Marlins scored 3.84 runs a game. In his last nineteen starts, the Marlins averaged 3.0 runs per game. So it's a point well taken.

1 comment:

Jonathan C. Mitchell said...

Great article. I noticed the drop but didn't even think to correlate it to the manager. Good call!

I think Sanchez has the ability to do much more and I think Guillen will let him ride a little longer.