sanchez_j_release_point_2010

Jonathan Sanchez: A Study in the Variances of Luck

July 18, 2010 - San Francisco, CA, United States of America - 18 July 2010; San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Giants Jonathan Sanchez.

This is an article probably better suited for the offseason, but I was going through the FB365 draft review and these numbers caught my eye.
 
Jonathan Sanchez finally had his breakout season in 2010. With an ERA under 4.00 for the first time in his career and a WHIP that isn’t killing you team’s category rank. It may seem like the hard throwing 27-year-old is here to stay. However, I think this might better serve as a classic case of variance in luck from one year to the next — or even from one half of a season to the next — rather than a case of a pitcher breaking out due to a change in skill.
 

Sanchez has lowered his BABIP against and line drive rate against every season since 2008.

 

Year

BABIP

LD%

2008

0.327

21.4%

2009

0.290

16.2%

2010

0.276

15.5%

However, his K/BB rates have varied very little from year to year while his K/9 rates have regressed and his BB/9 rates have remained well over four.
 

Year

K/BB

K/9

BB/9

2008

2.09

8.94

4.27

2009

2.01

9.75

4.85

2010

2.09

9.44

4.51

 
Even within this season we’ve seen only a small variance in his K/BB rates by month. In fact, his ERA has regressed as the season has moved along, but his FIP has regressed even more each month. Basically, after a stellar month of April, Sanchez has been inconsistent to say the least and not nearly as dominant as his ERA would indicate. 
 

2010

IP

H

H/9

ER

HR

BB

K

K/BB

ERA

FIP

 April

24

14

5.23

5

0

13

33

2.54

1.85

2.12

 May

37

25

6.05

15

4

16

30

1.88

3.58

4.24

 June

32

32

9.00

14

4

16

29

1.81

3.94

4.60

 July

28

27

8.68

14

5

16

35

2.19

4.50

4.85

 August

27

21

6.95

13

5

14

30

2.14

4.23

5.02

 
The variance in results of Sanchez’s balls in play have made all the difference here, which is something Sanchez himself has no control over.
 
Interestingly, Sanchez made one big adjustment from 2009 to 2010, but it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference in the results — if anything, it seems to have had a negative effect. Pitch f/x from TexasLeaguers.com shows how Sanchez has raised his release point, specifically on his fastball, which still hasn’t been very consistent.

sanchez_j_release_point_2009

 

 
If I had to guess, I would imagine that this higher release point would have added more sink to his fastball, but it hasn’t. Actually, Sanchez’s average fastball this season is down about one MPH from 2009 and he has generated almost two-percent fewer swings and misses with that pitch. It’s the increase in use of his changeup has helped make the fastball a more effective pitch this season.
 
Basically, Jonathan Sanchez is an improved version of his former self, but not by as much as we might think. There is a good chance that in 2011, Sanchez sees a regression in his BABIP against, especially if the Giants don’t improve their outfield defense.

Besides, is Sanchez, on a raw skill level, really all that different than Manny Parra? There isn’t a great difference in their RAW Pitcher Rating, though Parra has more problems with allowing home runs. Parra also has a huge BABIP against despite a good 18.2 percent line drive rate against and a ground ball rate approaching 50 percent. (Stats as of the last updated RAW Pitcher Rankings on 8/23/10)

Name

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

LD%

GB%

Chase%

Whiff%

RAW

BABIP

ERA

FIP

xFIP

Sanchez

9.35

4.46

0.93

15.0%

40.0%

27.8%

23.7%

75.05

0.275

3.47

4.01

4.28

Parra

9.14

4.65

1.50

18.2%

46.5%

29.6%

24.8%

71.62

0.360

5.65

4.86

4.15

Due to the risk of regression in BABIP against and due to a risky walk rate that hasn’t improved significantly, you want to make sure you don’t overpay for Sanchez’s services in 2011 drafts. I probably wouldn’t spend more than $5 on him in a mixed league auction or draft him before round 15 in a snake draft. He might actually be a pitcher I try to avoid all together in 2011.