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Anibal Sanchez: The Most Underrated Starter in Baseball

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Miami Marlins starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is the most underrated starter in all of baseball. I have no issues saying that strong statement.

If you ever watch MLB Network or Baseball Tonight, the analysts have high praise for the Marlins starting rotation. They love to talk about Josh Johnson and the only thing holding him back from being a top 5 pitchers is his health, they love talking about Mark Buehrle and his consistency, they love talking about Ricky Nolasco and his unpredictable pitching, and they love talking about Carlos Zambrano‘s temper.

Notice any Marlins pitcher that was left out of there? I notice this every time. Anibal Sanchez has posted back-to-back strong seasons and is still denied the attention he has earned.

Several times, the analysts on these shows have talked about the 2013 starting pitching free agent class, a name they fail to mention is Sanchez’s.

As I mentioned in my season preview for Anibal Sanchez, the Marlins also have shown the same lack of respect for Anibal as well. Proof of this includes that he has not received a contract extension offer from the Marlins. Adding on to that, they have named Sanchez the number 5 starer, when he clearly is the Marlins second best pitcher.

Here is a look at Sanchez’s numbers the past two seasons:

SanchezIPK%BB%ERAFIPHR/FB%WAR
2011196.124.3%7.7%3.673.3510.43.8
201019518.7%8.3%3.553.324.54.4
Career58919.4%9.3%3.723.877.910.9

In those past two seasons, Sanchez has posted an FIP of 3.33, which is the 17th best FIP in that span in all of baseball. That is ahead of pitchers like Cole Hamels, David PriceChris Carpenter, and Ubaldo Jimenez. That is some impressive company for Sanchez to be ahead of the past two seasons. Cole Hamels, by the way, is one of the pitchers part of the 2013 starting pitching free agent class.

Also, taking a look at WAR, Sanchez has posted a WAR of 8.2, the 19th best WAR in the past two seasons. This is ahead of Ian Kennedy, Mat Latos, and Edwin Jackson. It is also only .5 behind Hamels, and .8 behind Matt Cain, who also is a free agent in 2013.

What do all these numbers say about Sanchez? You surely should not get Sanchez confused with an elite level pitcher, such as Roy Halladay, but these numbers do prove that Sanchez is either a low tier ace, or a high end number 2 pitcher.

Here is the list of pitchers that will hit the open market in 2013:

The 2013 free agent starting pitching class provides a lot more options, and better ones, then the 2012 starting pitching class did. Cole Hamels and Matt Cain will obviously be the cream of the crop of these pitchers. But where does Anibal Sanchez fit into this class?

PitcherIPK %BB %ERAFIPGB %WAR
Matt Cain44519.70%6.90%3.013.2838.90%9
Cole Hamels424.223.70%6.20%2.923.3648.90%8.7
Zack Greinke391.223.40%6.10%4.023.1846.50%9
Anibal Sanchez391.121.50%8.00%3.613.3344.70%8.2
Francisco Liriano32622.40%9.50%4.223.4351.40%7
Shawn Marcum39619.90%6.20%3.593.7337.80%6.3
Edwin Jackson40918.70%7.90%4.143.7146.60%7.6
Johnathan Sanchez294.224.40%12.90%3.484.141.80%3

Anibal is clearly not on the same level as Hamels, Cain, or Greinke, as they have been posting similar numbers for a longer period of time. The past two seasons, though, Sanchez has shown that when he is healthy, he can be amongst these names in terms of pitching. If he were in a market bigger then the Marlins have been the past few seasons, a lot more people would be noticing Sanchez and what he brings.

If Sanchez has a strong 2012 season and the Marlins decide not to resign to a free agent contract after the season, and the Marlins are unable to add Hamels or Cain, the Marlins pitching staff in 2012 and beyond will be weakened.

I hope I opened up some eyes on Anibal Sanchez and his importance to the Miami Marlins and their playoff chances in 2012 and beyond. He may not be an elite level pitcher, but he is a strong pitcher that is hard to come by these days. The Marlins need him to have a strong season for them to make the playoffs. Then they need to make him a strong offer, otherwise, the Marlins will then have to learn the hard way, that Anibal Sanchez is currently the most underrated pitcher in baseball.