Gary Sanchez‘s power showed up early in the season, but there is more he can be doing to bounce back for the New York Yankees.
Gary Sanchez is a man on a mission, and signs only point to him accomplishing it and then some.
The New York Yankees catcher put on a clinic with his bat in Baltimore on Sunday, slugging three home runs with six RBI in a 15-3 victory. The outing gave Sanchez six home runs and nine RBI on the season and raised his batting average to .250.
Such has been the story of Gary Sanchez’s season so far. He hasn’t taken nearly enough walks and still appears to be settling in, but the incredible power fans missed in 2018 is there. Early on, Sanchez looks like the man who slugged 33 home runs in 2017 has risen from the dead.
And as great as the early power is, this should only be the beginning of Sanchez’s hot start. He looks good now, but can be even better if he doesn’t live and die by the long ball.
Lost season compensation
It’s certainly a pleasant surprise to see Gary Sanchez socking the ball this early in the year. All fans are aware of just how off he looked last season, from missing two months with a groin injury to batting just .186 come season’s end. Sanchez also led the majors in passed balls for the second year in a row, spawning more criticism of his defense.
And though Sanchez slugged 18 home runs with 53 RBI, he clearly wasn’t himself. He was visibly out of shape. He was clearly trying to go for the big home run instead of embracing situational hitting.
Granted, a lot of Sanchez’s issues last year were due to bad luck. He posted a BABIP of .197 and a hard contact rate of 36.9 percent. Seeing as how his career rate is 38 percent, the balls just weren’t landing where he and the Yankees would have liked. Sanchez’s strikeout rate (K%) also jumped to 25.1 percent from 22.9 percent, so that didn’t help matters either.
A hot start
Well, the 2019 season isn’t even a month old, and Gary Sanchez appears determined to silence his critics. Some of his current hitting metrics are unsustainable but are still completely out of this world.
His isolated power (ISO) is an eye-popping .563. His weighted on-base average (wOBA) sits at .465. Sanchez has also posted an early fly ball rate (FB%) of 72 percent. As for hard contact, he has a mark of 56 percent.
I’m sorry, but is this Gary Sanchez, or Drax the Destroyer in disguise? Seriously, it’s like the baseball is Thanos’ head and Sanchez/Drax is out to avenge losing his family or, in this case, his 2018 season.
Whatever Sanchez is doing, he needs to keep it coming. The Yankees start a three-game road series versus the Houston Astros Monday, and Sanchez’s hot bat will be essential against their impressive rotation.
That is, it will be so long as he diversifies his approach.
Release the Kraken
Gary Sanchez has indeed looked dangerous early in the season, but he could really just be getting started. If current trends hold, he could be in for a huge year, and here’s why.
Per FanGraphs, his pull rate (Pull%) is down to 48 percent from 51.1 percent. Meanwhile, has gone to the opposite field 24 percent of the time, up from 18.2 percent in 2018.
Yes, it’s still early in the season and these numbers will eventually level out, but the early results are still encouraging. One of the Yankees’ greatest flaws, especially early this season, has been living and dying by the home run. Instead of a simple RBI single, hitting the ball to Alpha Centauri is the preferred route. Longtime beat writer Bryan Hoch even joked about this on Twitter during Sunday’s rout of the Orioles.
The last time the Yankees scored without hitting a homer: Babe Ruth, RBI single, 1934
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 7, 2019
OK, it was really Judge's RBI single on April 3, third inning. Don't @ me
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 7, 2019
Here, Yankees fans, is a prime example of how Gary Sanchez can continue to have a great year. On top of upping his current walk rate (BB%) of 5.6 percent, he must use right-field more.
Think about it. Yankee Stadium is well known for its short porch in right field. Star slugger Aaron Judge, for all his home run power, has gone to the opposite field 27.5 percent of the time in his career. By comparison, his Pull% sits at 40.7 percent.
By comparison, Sanchez has gone opposite just 16.4 percent of the time compared to a Pull% of 51.8 percent.
Now, think of how good a hitter Sanchez is aside from his home run power. He hit .278 in 2017, and his 33 home runs came in just 122 games played. This is clearly a player who can be a perennial All-Star and, maybe, an MVP candidate if he just used the entire field instead of consistently pulling the ball.
This is what Sanchez must do to sustain his early power streak. Instead of bashing the ball to left, he should focus on lacing a double to the gap in right. Even a soft line drive single up the middle would be great. The goal is, for whenever Sanchez steps into the batter’s box, to make this the mantra:
We all know Gary Sanchez has power. We also know he’s a great overall hitter. He is more than just a home run threat and can be great so long as he adjusts for breaking pitches out of the strike zone.
Sanchez has shown early on he is determined to bounce back from a lost 2018. So long as he puts in the work and doesn’t live and die by the home run, that goal will be achieved.