Blogservations 08/21/09: Triumphant Return of Anibal Sanchez


My apologies for a lack of Blogservations recently, as I have had much to do and little time to do it. In addition, I don’t think you needed me to tell you how dominant Ricky Nolasco was a few days ago and how not dominant Josh Johnson was two days back. Still, I am here to point out what Anibal Sanchez did in returning and picking up the win for the Marlins last night against the Atlanta Braves. Let’s get right to Sanchez’s evening.

A good comeback outing for Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez’s line could not have been sweeter in coming back. In his first major league start since June 6th, Sanchez posted a solid six innings, giving up only two hits and striking out seven while walking two. In the 11 balls in play allowed, Sanchez induced six grounders versus five balls in air, three of which were considered line drives by Baseball-Reference (via Retrosheet). Those are solid numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story. Let’s look at some Pitch f/x, as always courtesy of Brooks Baseball’s Pitch f/x tool.

There’s definitely a lot of good going on here. The first thing I noticed with regards to location was the lack of pitches in the middle of the zone. If Sanchez went over the plate, it was low or high; my guess is that the high strikes were early in the count, then he was able to stay low in the zone to induce his grounders and finish off hitters. Check out the lefty/righty charts.

Sanchez punished righties low and away with his assortment of breaking pitches. By necessity he worked more in the zone versus the lefties, relying on his fastball and changeup to do the work his curve and slider could not. Note that against lefties, Sanchez worked almost entirely outside against the lefties, though he obviously was more over the plate against them in general. There are very few pitches that ventured inside against left-handers, among them one of the base hits, the ground ball double past third base by Ryan Church. For the most part, the balls in play were located low, and the two hits were on pitches of decent location.

One of the other standout things in Sanchez’s start is the amount of whiffs he got on his pitches. To righties, he achieved the majority of the whiffs on sliders and changeups low and away, evidenced by the yellow dots out of the zone in that area versus right-handers. Only two whiffs occurred inside on righties, and only one of them was in the zone, meaning they simply weren’t seeing Sanchez well. The lefties fared better, whiffing only once outside the zone. Still, Sanchez induced five whiffs from them, the majority on changeups. In all, Sanchez induced 12 whiffs on his pitches, half of them outside the zone, an indication that his stuff was very nasty last night.

The Braves did not trot out their best lineup; Omar Infante was at second rather than Martin Prado and Nate McLouth was nowhere to be found. But the Braves had an extremely difficult time seeing Sanchez last night, and that’s definitely what the Marlins need from him going forward. Sanchez was spotting his pitches very well, staying away from hitters and getting whiffs with his breaking stuff. Overall, he was in the zone, to the tune of 63.4% strikes out of his 82 pitches and 27 of his 52 strikes of the looking or swinging variety, the best kind of strikes you can get. This helped him avoid his biggest difficulty this season, keeping his walks down. If he can keep locating pitches this well, his walks should go down and perhaps it will minimize his home runs as well. With that, we’ll have a third or fourth starter on whom we can depend, in addition to Chris Volstad. Combine that with our two aces and we’d have as formidable a pitching staff as any team this side of San Francisco can boast.