What if I told you Gary Sanchez would have an 11% walk rate and a .225 ISO in 2018, and would be on the verge of 20 homers despite missing more than a month of baseball? You’d likely say Gary was having a pretty damn good year.
But given what his season stat line looks like, what can we say about his season other than what’s in the title of this post? Almost nothing has gone right for him this year in terms of both performance and health. The latter does, however, seem to be cleared up, but the performance hasn’t come around like we expected it to earlier in the year. What gives?
In at least one way–his basic batted ball profile–things look fairly similar to 2017. There are hardly any differences in his tendencies to pull, go up the middle, or hit to the opposite field. Some other things that look similar are his ground ball and fly ball rates. Despite those similarities, there are trouble spots.
His line drive rate has plummeted to 14.9%. Predictably, this has led to an increase in infield fly balls as well as a decrease in HR/FB%, the former increasing almost 9% and the latter dropping around 7%. That combination is not a recipe for success for any player who isn’t slashing the ball around the field, using his speed to get on base. Sanchez is not that type of player.
One culprit for the change in results for 2018 has been the slider and his lack of production against that pitch type. In 2017, he hit fairly well against the slider, racking up line drives on 27% of the sliders he put in play, as well as cranking out a homer about 21% of the time he put sliders in the air. Additionally, his pop up percentage per balls in play was low at just under 6%. Things have not gone as well in 2018.
His LD/BIP% has dropped to below 19%. The PU/BIP% has skyrocketed to almost 15%. The HR/(FB+LD)% has dropped to a tragically low 5.56%. Sanchez has also had issues with the slider’s forebear: the curveball.
Gary’s whiffed on 49% of the curveballs he’s swung at. That’s trouble no matter what happens when you actually do hit the ball. But when he’s done that, it’s mostly been weak contact, as he’s rocking a paltry LD/BIP% of under 12% on the deuce.
His Statcast data offers a mixed bag in terms of explanation for what’s going on. On the plus side, Sanchez’s contact profile suggests he’s way underperforming. His real wOBA? .307. His expected wOBA? .364. But on the flip side of that, his performance against non-fastballs has been so dismal that it’s hard to say he ‘deserves’ to be hitting better. Against offspeed pitches, he has a wOBA of just .189 with an xWOBA of .214. Against breaking pitches? wOBA: .203. xWOBA: .285. A lot of the difference in overall wOBA and overall xWOBA is the fact that despite a .388 wOBA on fastballs, he’s underperforming there, too, with an xWOBA of .437.
This has been a worst case scenario season for Sanchez. What could go wrong has gone wrong. Despite that, he still does have an outside shot at 20 homers and does have the rest of September and October to make meaningful contributions. If he does that, all of this will just be noise. Perhaps I’m too much of a Stan for Sanchez, but I have a hard time thinking he’ll repeat this type of season next year.