Gaby Sanchez: A Tale of Two HalvesBy
Sanchez started 2011 off looking like an All-Star and hitting .312/.392/.513 in 309 plate appearances with twelve homeruns and eighteen doubles through June 18th. He was walking at an 11.7% rate and only striking out at a 13.6% rate and he would wind up being the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star game.
But from June 19th until the end of the season, Sanchez looked nothing like a man deserving of representing his ball club in the mid-summer classic. He struggled to hit his listed 225 pound weight and hit .224/.317/.350 in 352 plate appearances the rest of the way with only seven homeruns and seventeen doubles and seeing slight regression in his walk and strikeout rates.
Why did Sanchez fade so fast just shy of the season’s halfway point? Was it due to injury? Was it fatigue? Did he change his approach? Did pitchers attack him differently? Let’s take a deeper and look and see if we can come up with an explanation.
Sanchez’s BABIP through his first 309 plate appearances was .330 compared to .249 over his final 352 PAs. Some of this can be attributed to luck but some can be attributed to the way pitchers attacked him.
In Sanchez’s first 309 PAs pitchers attacked him with 33.3% four-seam fastballs compared to 37.5% over his final 352 PAs and saw the two-seam fastballs decrease by 3%, which means pitchers were noticing that higher velocity worked against Sanchez.
Sanchez has not faired well against power pitchers in his career with only a .232/.329/.350 line against them in 284 PAs and a .279/.351/.464 against all other pitchers. And, as you would guess, his BABIP is 30 points lower against power pitchers.
Sanchez saw his HR/FB rate drop from 12.5% in April to 12.2% in May to 11.1% in June to 8.6% in July to 2.9% in August and ending with 5.9% in September. He also posted IFFB rates over 14% in July and September. This suggests that he was making weak contact and getting underneath too many pitches, coinciding with the fact that more pitchers were working him with more four-seamers and, as the graph below shows, up in the zone and up out of the zone.
When a pitcher works a right-handed hitter up in the zone with fastballs and the hitter gets behind them it usually results in weak fly balls to right field. This seems to be the case for Sanchez. See the before and after graphs below:
I am not an advanced scout and I did not see a lot of Marlins games in the second half of last season so I cannot comment on whether Sanchez was tired or if reports went around about him having a slow bat. It’s irrelevant. One thing is for sure, though, that Gaby Sanchez needs to make the proper adjustments, whether it be mechanical or conditioning, or Marlins fans will have to see a weak hitting first baseman hit more lazy flies to the right side of the field as they try and contend in 2012.