When fans arrived at Yankee Stadium last night to watch the Yankees face off against the Washington Nationals, some were surprised to see catcher Gary Sanchez benched with Austin Romine starting – but why should they be?
The decline of Sanchez is as clear as day, and it should be concerning to Yankee fans everywhere. Being one of the most productive catchers behind the dish at one time, Sanchez’s depressed offensive contributions, along with some less than stellar defensive play so far, and you have a deadly combination that makes for a big problem.
Just how far has Sanchez fallen? Sanchez only had 229 appearances in all of 2016. He hit a .299 with 20 HRs and 42 RBIs, putting him in contention for Rookie of the year. Last season, he let loose, hitting an .278 with 33 HRs, 90 RBIs and a solid .876 OPS. He would go on to earn a spot on the American League All Star team, was a Silver Slugger, and was named as a potential AL MVP. This season, in 230 PAs, he’s hitting a sad .190.
What is the explanation? Some have pointed to the possibility that pitchers have adjusted to him. After all, Aaron Judge had the same dilemma, but he has been seemingly able to find his stride. Some point to the fact that maybe the “Slump Bug” is just running around the club, with guys like Didi Gregorius and Giancarlo Stanton struggling at points as well. However, Didi is seemingly coming out of his big slump and Giancarlo – while only hitting .240 – is actually pretty consistent to where he was at this time last year.
Others, like Mike Petriello of MLB.com, point out that Sanchez has also been, simply put – unlucky at the plate, as many of Sanchez’s ground balls seem to always find infielders. He goes further to mention that not only is Sanchez bad when it comes to ground balls, he is one of the worst in the game, noting that he has “… put 61 grounders in play, and has hits on just five of them”.
Sanchez is young, has a ton of power, and is extremely important to the future of the New York Yankees. MLB is short handed on quality and consistent power catchers, and we know that Sanchez has a tremendous amount of talent. With one, or maybe a few, flicks of the bat – he will be right back in it.
He just needs to pull out of it, and soon. We are already in June, and the window of time to correct major deficits is coming to a close. While the Yankees do have a solid Romine to go to when necessary, he is not a permanent fix.
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