Here are Some Facts about Gary Sánchez, Who Will be Just Fine

Gary Sánchez is struggling out of the gate. He is 0-12 with 8 strikeouts in the new season and he’s looked pretty miserable at the plate, even as he’s stolen a few strikes below the zone. There is no getting around it: he has been bad and difficult to watch.

As always, when Gary is struggling, he looks the part. He swings at pitches he shouldn’t and isn’t close to hitting pitches he should hit. This, coupled with an obsession with passed balls, makes Gary a very controversial player in the Yankee fandom. This is stupid, because Gary is one of baseball’s best catchers. It is also stupid because the Yankees have played just four games in 2020. Of those, Gary has started three and pinch-hit in one.

With this in mind, I wanted to put together a few facts about Gary Sánchez’s place among catchers from 2016 through the end of 2019. Do when them what you will:

  • His 105 home runs are the most among all MLB catchers. Yasmani Grandal’s 101 are second, despite the fact Grandal has played in 178 more games than Sánchez. Salvador Pérez is in third place with 78, despite playing in 29 more games than the Kraken.
  • Gary’s 121 wRC+ since the start of 2016 is the highest among all Major League catchers.
  • His .514 slugging percentage is .39 points higher than the catcher in second place (Evan Gattis).
  • Gary’s .269 isolated power is also .39 points higher than the catcher in second place (Evan Gattis, again).
  • Sánchez’s .840 OPS is tops in baseball by .17 points higher than second place, 29 points higher than third place, 24 points higher than fourth place, and 42 points higher than fifth place.
  • His .352 wOBA is also tops in baseball. His .387 expected wOBA is – stop me if you’ve heard this before – the highest in baseball.
  • Among all catchers since 2016, Gary’s 91.3 mph average exit velocity is the highest in the league. It is also 31st highest out of all 360 qualified players, regardless of position.
  • His 493-foot home run in August 2017 traveled 17 feet further than next closest non-Gary catcher. He has also hit a ball 481 feet. That looks like this.
  • His 11.6 fWAR ranks 5th out of the group despite playing in 131 fewer games than all but one catcher (Tyler Flowers) ahead of him.
  • Despite all this, his .264 BABIP ranks 30th out of 34 qualified catchers. This suggests, in fact, that he’s been unlucky.

Again, it is true that Gary Sánchez has been bad so far in 2020. Nobody, not even his biggest fan, would deny that. However, if I’m choosing between three games (and one extra at-bat) or four plus years of work, I know which choice I am making. Do you?

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14 Comments

  1. RJ MacReady

    How many high draft picks have the Yankees used on catchers over the last 3 drafts? I think even they realize Gary Sanchez is not elite or even close at his position. He’ll be out of NY and maybe the majors all together within 2 seasons. Just a prediction.

  2. Mungo

    Gary can be better, but there are few better catchers in the game. Sure, that’s a partial indictment of the overall mediocre depth at that position, but that’s also part of the point why Gary is valuable.

  3. Frankly, Sanchez has regressed since his early days.

  4. If he is ‘one of the best’, which is pure conjecture based on 4 years of statistics rather than the past two seasons, it’s more a reflection of how weak the catching position is around baseball.

    Jorge Posada wasn’t great defensively but compared to Sanchez he was Lou Gehrig at the plate.

    Until Sanchez learns to lay off the breaking ball (or at least do something with the ones that are cookies, there were a couple of them last night) that’s all he’s going to be seeing for the foreseeable future and it could get even uglier. Basically he’s become a strikeout machine with an occasional bomb that gets his fans excited.

    Sanchez clearly refuses to adjust his swing during an AB the way Gleyber Torres does and put the ball in play on a regular basis, it’s painful to watch.

  5. Gerreddardit Cole

    No he won’t, Bobby. He strikes out 3-4 times a game, he’s a below average defender and he’s fat and lazy. Reminds me more of Jesus Montero than Jorgie Posada. He doesn’t even try to get in shape. Look at Stanton and Voit and how they changed their bodies for the better this season. Why can’t Gary do that? Instead he put his leg out a little further in his crouch and people said wow look at him trying! Tonight is a lefty on the mound that he should crush. If he strikes out 4 times again I think you have to make the switch to Higgy. At least with Higgy you know he’ll give you good defense and make contact with the ball. If Joe Girardi and Tony Pena couldn’t get through to him nobody will.

  6. MikeD

    Streaky hitter is streaky. The frustration with Gary is it doesn’t have to be that way. He swings for the fences, where if he took a more balanced approach he’d be less streaky and would hit as many, it nor more, HRs. The talent is there to be a better hitter. He could be one of those players who realizes it at some future date, or stays the same for his career. Hoping for the former. He’s so far shown little desire to adapt.

  7. Alex

    I understand the points you are making about Sanchez but statistics from 3-4 seasons ago are in my opinion really not significant anymore in evaluating a player’s current skill-set. Using the past season or two seasons is very measurable to evaluate a player currently but going back 4 seasons seems like a stretch.

    Lets just look at Joey Votto as an example:

    Here were his triple slash lines in 2016 and 17, respectively: .326/.434./.550 and .320/.454/.578.

    But in 2018 and 19, here were his triple slash lines: .284/.417/.419 and .261/.357/.411.

    Using those statistics from 2016-19, you can conclude Joey Votto is easily a top-3 1st baseman in baseball. But its evident that Votto is no longer a top-5 or even top-10 1st baseman in the league.

    Extrapolate the last 2 years of Sanchez’s statistics and you see a catcher whose performance does not even compare to what we saw in the 2016-17 seasons.

    • Bobby

      It’s a fair point. It was mostly just for fun, but for what it’s worth, Sánchez is still a top-10 catcher even in those years by WAR. He also ranks near the top in every power category as well, which is his most unique skillset, and the main set of categories I listed here (for this reason). I don’t think he’s Johnny Bench or Mike Piazza. The point is that what is he is okay and he doesn’t deserve the flack he gets.

  8. Doug `Hudgins

    Try that compilation using 2018 and 2019, the two most recent years and I suspect the picture will be quite different.

    • Bobby

      Probably not as much as you’d think. It’s not quite as good, obviously, but he’s still top-10 in overall value and his power numbers don’t change much. The main point is that people overreact to everything Gary does when the reality is he’s been quite good.

  9. mikenyc2007

    He is a victim of his early success, hype,and he fails at the eyeball test due to his inability to hit the ball the other way.

    he is a very good player with occasional hot streaks, but unfortunately he is not the Kracken, or Piazza ,or any other monster offensive player…. we have gone from comparing him to the other best young hitters in baseball, to all time great catchers… to the current crop of MLB catchers.

    IMO he doesn’t look to be the in peak of fitness (although he is likely one of the most healthy/fit persons on the planet), and he has become an all-or-nothing pull hitter instead of the middle of the field hitter he was during his rookie and early career games.

    His most famous hit is likely the double against the Astros, which was a line drive up the middle (perhaps towards RF)… and i remember thinking “ok, he is back to what he was” in terms of hitting the ball where it was pitched etc.

    he has the ability to be a star, but one wonders with a more refined approach at the plate how much better he would be.

    • Bobby

      Right. I definitely agree about the difference in how he’s talked about now than he was in 2017, but I do wonder how much of this was outsized expectations. It’s obviously quite difficult to be a catcher, and the point is that Gary is among the best. I think that’s worth reminding folks.

      • MikeD

        Gary is in some ways a victim of his early success. Fans were hoping that what they saw in his rookie campaign is what he’d be over a 162 game season. He’s still one of the top few catchers in the game, but fans were hoping he’d be the clear number one catcher. The expectations, coupled with his streaky hitting, have hurt his perception. He’s far from perfect, and he may eventually tap fully into his talents, but he’s still better overall than most all other catchers in the game. Fans have lost track of that. Well, some fans.

        • Drew Fritsch

          The strikeout rate is truly his Achilles heel. You can’t talk about his BABIP being “unlucky” when he actually strikes out over 50% of the time. I agree it’s time to move on to a better defensive catcher who can at least put the ball in play and occasionally make a “productive” out.

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