Dispensing with pleasantries before we even get to one, let’s just say that Gary Sánchez is not having a strong start to the 2020 season. In eight games, he has just two hits and one walk. In his 27 plate appearances, he has struck out 14 times. To quote a former Yankee manager and recent Yankee opponent, it’s not what you want. Let’s take a look at the how and the why for this ugliness and try to draw some conclusions.
When a player is striking out a lot more than normal, the first thing to consider might be if he’s swinging any more or less in general. That doesn’t seem to be the case as he’s about where he was last year, though with a slight downturn against offspeed pitching.
To spare you some more graphs, I’ll skip ahead to what I found most interesting in Sánchez’s swing profile this season. First, here’s his in-zone swing percentages.
Pretty normal, huh? And it seems to match with his overall swing percentages: about the same as always, but slightly less on offspeed. Now, here’s his in-zone swing-and-miss percentages.
Oh, boy. While the breaking and offspeed lines aren’t too alarming, that fastball one is…yikes. Whiffing on that many fastballs in the zone is not going to be a winning strategy for any hitter, even one as talented as Gary.
His out-of-zone numbers tell a similar story: a relatively normal distribution of pitches and a higher rate of whiffs:
We can see increases in chase/whiff percentages on both fastballs and breaking pitches. It’s never good when you expand the zone and miss those pitches you’re expanding on.
Overall, his strikeout percentages look like this:
Two of those lines are heading in a Not Great direction, aren’t they?
To drive the point home about misses even more, let’s look at his zone profile from Brooks:
Middle and up in the zone, he’s whiffing a lot. Up out of the zone, he’s wiffing a lot; those two areas–broad as they are–correlate with the fastball whiff percentages from the Statcast graphs. The middle and lower right portions of the zone profile correlate with the breaking whiff percentages from the Statcast data.
Almost nothing on the offensive side has looked good for Gary in 2020. But there are silver linings. It’s early in the season (funny to say in August) so there’s a lot of variance and extremity to these numbers. That alone means they’re going to come back down. Additionally, according to Statcast, the little contact he’s making has been pretty quality. He ranks in the 83rd percentile for exit velocity and in the 6oth for hard hit percentage. Once Gary starts making more consistent contact, things should level out for him. And when that happens, he can carry an offense.