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The season that was: Aaron Sanchez

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

After being one of our top prospects for the last few years, Aaron Sanchez jumped through AA and AAA, in 2014 and ended the year in our bullpen, doing a very good as a setup man/sometimes closer in the last half of the season.

During the off-season, we wondered whether the Jays would keep him in the bullpen or if they would put him into the rotation. I don't think the team really were totally committed to one answer or the other either. They seemed to change their minds on it several times. Or perhaps different members of the front office had different opinions.

And the season started and they still didn't seem committed to one role for Aaron. I'm not a fan of vacillating on decisions like this. I think well fun teams make a choice and stick to it.

2015    22 7 6 3.22 41 11  4  0 92.1 74 33  9 44 61  8  123 4.61

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He started the season in the rotation, made a few start, got injured and, when he came back they put him in the bullpen.

He was pretty good in the playoffs. He pitched in 9 games, allowed no earned runs, with 7 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts in 7.1 innings.

Baseball Reference has him at a 1.7 WAR. FanGraphs, on the other hand, has him at just a 0.3 WAR, giving him a value of $2.5 million, still making him a bargain for the Jays. As I have said before, I change my mind daily on which version of WAR I like more, in this case I lean more towards FanGraphs value.

As a starter, Aaron had a 5-4 record, with a 3.55 ERA, and batters hit .242/.346/.392 against him.

As a reliever, Aaron was 2-2, with a 2.39 ERA, batters hit .178/.245/.222.

In all, he had a 4.61 FIP and a 4.27 xFIP, both much higher than his 3.22 ERA.

Aaron's BABIP was .247, much higher than last year's .157 (in very limited innings), but still low.

Compared to the 2014, Aaron's strikeout rate was down (16.1%, from 22.3) and his walk rate was up

He gave up more line drives (17.8%, up from 14.6), fewer ground balls (60.6% down from 65.9) and more fly balls (21.6% up from 19.5). Far more of his fly balls left the park (15.5% up from 6.3).

As you know, he had a lot more trouble with LHB (.282/.390/.488) than RHB (.163/.242/.194).

Aaron had much better numbers at home (2.68 ERA, batter hit .211/.303/.319) than on the road (3.96 ERA, .241/.341/.379).

Sanchez by month:

  • April: 1-2, 5.03 ERA, batters hit .260/.379/.493, in 4 starts, 19.2 innings.
  • May: 3-2, 3.29 ERA, batters hit .237/.352/.353 in 6 starts, 38.1 innings.
  • June: 1-0, 1.13 ERA, batters hit .214/.214/.321 in 1 start, 8 innings.
  • July: 1-0,  0 ERA, batters hit .077/.077/.077 in 4 relief appearances, 4 innings.
  • August: 0-1, 1.54 ERA, batters hit .108/.175/.189 in 13 relief appearances, 11.2 innings.
  • Sept/Oct: 1-1, 4.22 ERA, batters hit .275/.356/.300 in 13 relief appearances, 10.2 innings.

His best start, by GameScore, was a 71 May 8 against the Red Sox, He went 7 shutout innings, allowed 2 hits, with 5 walks, 3 strikeouts and 1 hit batter. His worst start was 32, May 13 against the Orioles. He went 5.2 innings, allowed 7 hits, 5 earned, 4 walks, 1 strikeout.

I felt that, as a starter, Sanchez seemed to improve almost every start. But, when he got hurt, the team moved him into the bullpen, maybe because they felt he was less likely to get injured as a reliever pitching an inning at a time (and, at least in part, because they could bring him back to the majors quicker without having to stretch out his arm again). I think the team would have been better off keeping Sanchez in the rotation and giving Liam Hendriks a more important role in the pen, but if they decided he couldn't stand up to the strain of being a starter. If that's the case, I'm ok with him in the pen.

As a reliever, he's really should be used almost exclusively against right-handed batters. It would be nice if he would find a way to pitch to lefties.

Aaron's still just 23, so he's got time to improve. Bringing a pitcher up when he's as young as Sanchez was has us fans watching his growing pains. Teams always have a balancing act when thinking of bringing up young players. Do you bring them up when they can help your team, even though they have more development work to do, or do you leave them in the minors until they are a finished developing, even though they can hep the major league team win.

Pretty clearly, Sanchez could have used more time in the minors to work on another pitch, work on ways to get out left-handed batters, but then, he was pretty handy to have around, especially in 2014.

It will be interesting to watch the rest of his career. I'd like the Jays to make the decision that he will either be a starter or a reliever and stick to the decision.

The most memorable moment of Aaron's 2015 season, to me, was when he was ejected in the 8th inning of our game against the Royals on August 2nd. You'll likely remember that Josh Donaldson was hit by pitch in the first inning of the game. Umpire Jim Wolf immediately warned both benches. Donaldson's next at bat included a pitch up near his head, but there was no ejection. Later Troy Tulowitzki has hit by pitch, no ejection. Donaldson had another pitch up and in. Still no ejection and Donaldson is more than a bit peeved. Then Sanchez comes in and a hits Alcides Escobar in the leg and, of course, he get ejected and also gets a 3-game suspension. In a just world Wolf would have been fired right after the game.