Since April of 2017, much has been said about Gary Sanchez.
The power at the plate and arm strength were noticed immediately, of course. Somewhere along the line, however, that started to take a back seat or downright forgotten as other less pleasant concerns and topics of discussion arose.
Like the passed balls. Lots of passed balls.
Worse than that, many don’t like the way he runs. Or looks.
The concern (I surmise) is that the appearance combined with the poor blocking skills will cost the Yankees “in a big spot”.
Let’s think this through. In no particular order:
Babe Ruth looked and ran funny too. Stop.
Sanchez’ ability to prevent passed balls and wild pitches is below league average. But his ability to stop a running game with his arm, and his pitch framing ability are both above average.
The net? He is an above average defensive catcher, overall. His throwing and pitch framing have saved more runs than his passed balls have allowed.
Don’t take my word for it: Since the start of 2017 through today, Baseball Prospectus has Sanchez at + 5.2 adjusted runs, Baseball Reference at plus .5 dWAR, and Fangraphs has him at plus 10.7 in their total defense rating.
In reality the conversation should stop there. But since we’re friends…
Before looking at numbers, my first thought when I hear concerns about Sanchez, are always something along the lines of…
Who in the hell would you rather have as your catcher? Seriously, complaining about Sanchez is Yankee fans at their worst…(excluding the booing of Giancarlo Stanton and the elevation of Didi to monument status in center field at the stadium.)
Since the start of ’17, among MLB cathchers with 150 games and 75% of them at catcher, Sanchez is:
First in OPS+ and first in wRC+ (i.e., he’s the best offensive catcher in baseball), and 1st in fWAR (total overall value as a player). And as mentioned, although he isn’t elite defensively all things considered, and there are certainly areas upon which he can improve, he is above average in preventing runs despite the passed balls.
And as a friendly reminder: There is one player in the history of baseball to start a career with 6 straight negative WAR seasons by age 28 – Austin Romine.
If you have a problem with Sanchez, I’ll say the same thing to you I said to people who boo Stanton and who think Didi is a top level shortstop:
(Insert Aaron Rodgers voice): Relax. He improves your chances of winning a game more than any catcher in baseball.
*As always, thanks to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for the info, but a special thanks to Baseball Prospectus on this one. All great sites…