What has happened to Gaby Sanchez?By
2011 has been a tale of two seasons for Gaby Sanchez. The 28-year old first baseman started the year on a tear, but his numbers have since fallen greatly. Granted, after hitting .345 through May, he was destined for regression, but a 142-point drop in OPS is a cause for (at least a bit of) concern.
To further illustrate the point, here is Sanchez’s slash line before and after June 17th
Before June 17th- .312/.392/.511
After June 17th- .215/.292/.348
The first thing that jumps out at me here is the huge drop in Slugging percentage. You see an almost identical drop in Batting Average and On-Base percentage at about 100 points, but Slugging dips an astounding 143 percentage points. That the power has been hit hardest by his long slump is clear to see.
For those prefer whole numbers- 2B/HR
Before June 17th- 17/12
After June 17th- 13/6
(I should note that these numbers are through a very similar number of games- 70 before the 17th, and 66 after)
With this information, it would be easy to say that he is most likely experience the downside of luck, and that would be correct. His BABIP’s are as follows:
Before June 17th- .330
After June 17th- .235
Using the benchmark .300 average for most hitters on balls in play, you can see that in the early part of the season, Sanchez was experiencing a great deal of luck coming his way. This would partially explain the exceptional numbers Gaby put up through the first few months of the season. On the flip side, this also makes Sanchez’s paltry .215 batting average the rest of the way make more sense.
For his career, Sanchez has a .293 average on balls in play, and for the season he stands at .286, so look for that number to ascend towards his average slightly the remainder of the way.
But his slump is not only the result of good and bad bounces going his way (or not going his way). When you look at some numbers that are “luck-free”, things the batter his direct control over, the results are still night and day.
His K/BB totals,
Before June 17th- 35/42
After June 17th- 24/24
Now, some of the stark contrast is regression to his career averages, which is to be expected, but it is never a good sign to see such a sharp decline in a players peripherals.
So, with all of this in mind, what happened to Gaby Sanchez is still unclear. His drop in production is partially a result of regression of his BABIP, but his decline in K/BB rates have also been responsible. The BABIP will most likely swing back in favor of Sanchez, along with a lower strikeout rate regressing to his career averages. However, such a drop in the numbers and peripherals across the board should elicit some concern, and if the K/BB rates never return to where they were, it wouldn’t be the first time a player dropped off the map never to return to their former self. The truth is we don’t really know, and Sanchez may be nursing an injury, he may have changed something in his mechanics, or the most likely, it’s just some bad luck and an untimely slump.
Statistics and information from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference