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The Season That Was: Aaron Sanchez

ALCS - Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

After 2015, when Aaron Sanchez started the season in the rotation, got injured and finished the season in the bullpen, we spent a lot of this year’s spring arguing about whether he should be a starter or a reliever.

His first few 2015 starts weren’t great, I thought he improved with almost every start, but it is hard to get over first impressions. When he was rehabbing from his mid-season injury, the team decided to put him in the bullpen to get him back to the majors quicker and he was pretty fantastic as a reliever. When a guy can throw as hard as Sanchez does, it is easy to imagine him as a reliever.

Jake put up a poll, asking ‘what should the Jays do with Sanchez’ and, most of us got it right:

64% Starter

3% Bullpen

25% Bullpen to Starter

8% Starter to Bullpen

Starting seemed to work out:

Year   Age  W L  ERA  G GS    IP   H ER HR BB  SO HBP WP ERA+  FIP HR9 BB9 SO9
2016    23 15 2 3.00 30 30 192.0 161 64 15 63 161   5  5  142 3.55 0.7 3.0 7.5
Provided by "": "View Original Table": Generated 10/28/2016.

I thought he would be good, I didn’t’ expect him to be lead the league in ERA, deserve Cy Young votes good.

Baseball Reference has Sanchez at a 4.8 WAR. Fangraphs at 3.9 WAR, making him worth $30.9 million to the Jays.

Batters had a .267 BABIP against him (last year .247). Aaron had a 3.55 FIP and 3.75 xFIP. He had a few less runners stranded than last year (76.9%, down from 79.3).

His line drive rate was up a bit (20.5% up from 17.8), ground ball rate down, but still a big time ground ball pitcher (54.5%, from 60.6) and his fly ball rate was up (25.1% from 21.6). Fewer of his fly balls became home runs (10.7%, down from 15.5).

Aaron’s strikeout rate was up (20.4%, from 16.1) and his walk rate was down (8.0%, from 11.6).

His left/right splits were surprisingly even (.231/.273/.318 vs RHB, .217/.306/.352 vs. LHB).

He was better on the road (9-1, 2.48 ERA, batters hitting .210/.284/.313) that at home (6-1, 3.74 ERA, batters hit .233/.294/.349).

Aaron first half (9-1, 2.97, batters hit .233/.294/.349) and second half (6-1, 3.05, batters hit .210/.284/.313) were pretty equal.

Sanchez by month:

April: 2-1, 2.59, batters hit .220/.287/.339

May: 2-0, 3.93, .236/.307/.339

June: 4-0, 2.72, .256/.305/.391

July: 3-0, 1.59, .238/.238/.244

August: 2-1, 3.91, .253/.310/.341

September: 2-0, 3.64, .194/.293/.343

He was pretty consistent, I guess July sticks out as his best month, but he didn’t really have a bad month.

Aaron had 2 starts in the playoffs. The one against the Rangers didn’t go well (5.2 innings, 3 hits, 6 earned, 2 home runs, 4 walks and 5 strikeouts, but he had a no decision). The one against the Clevelanders was much better (6 innings, 2 hits, 1 earned, 2 walk and 5 strikeouts, getting our one win).

The Jays were 18-12 in Aaron’s starts. Since he was 15-2, that means the bullpen was 3-10 in his starts. I’ve always had a theory that relievers have a tougher time relieving for very good starters, but this seems like bad luck.

His longest win streak was 10 games, running from April 29 to July 25. His longest losing streak was 1.

His best start, by Game Score, was June 7, in Detroit, getting a 79. He went 8 innings allowing 3 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk with 12 strikeouts. Roberto Osuna blew the save and then Joe Biagini took the loss in the 10th inning.

His worst start, by Game Score, was April 22, at home against the A’s, getting a 22. In 4.1 innings he allowed 10 hit, 6 earned, 1 walk, 1 home run, with 3 strikeouts. That was one of his 2 losses.

His offseason workout regime really seems to have paid off. Gaining 25 pound in one winter seems like a lot (though I can do it easy), but it does seem that it helped his balance on the mound and helped his endurance.

The big controversy was whether the team would decide to shut him down or not. After much debate, among members of the team’s decision makers (not to mention us here on the site), they decided to have him skip a couple of starts, but continue as a starter.

He ended up throwing 203.2 innings, including the playoffs. I really didn’t expect him to throw 200 innings, but there didn’t seem to be any ill-effects (at least this year). He seemed as strong at the end of the season as at the beginning.

Sanchez might be my favorite pitcher to watch, gotta love guys that can throw hard and have a terrific curve. I love watching batters walking away amazed after making an out.

Aaron and Marcus Stroman are tied at 24 in career wins. It will be interesting to watch their careers and see how compare as the years go by. I think it is good to have two competitive friends coming up together on the same staff. I’m sure they will continue to push each other.

Can you imagine being 24 and having the future earning potential that Aaron has?