Here’s the thing you need to know about Gary Sanchez. Or Trea Turner or any other player that doesn’t hustle.
The concepts of “hard-nosed”, “gritty”, “hustling”, “heart and soul” type players are total bullshit. It’s all just a construct to sell jerseys, player merchandise, radio ads, and newspapers (or clicks and views nowadays) that plays off each of our own personal biases and perceptions.
When it comes to evaluating how good or bad a player is, which player is better, who would you rather have on your team, etc. discussions, it’s all absolutely meaningless.
A player’s hustle or lack thereof, will show up in his statistical record, despite common cries of “things you don’t see in the box score” nonsense perpetuated by the geriatric media types. (Looks sideways at John Sterling…)
Let’s use Robinson Cano for example. We can all pretty much agree that the public’s perception of him is one of a very good player who didn’t hustle very much. Again, that’s just a perception, but it’ll do for our discussion’s sake.
If Robinson Cano didn’t hustle running out a ground ball and he got thrown out, that would hurt his OBP, batting average and possibly runs scored and RBI totals, depending on the situation.
If Cano didn’t hustle out of the box, and stopped at first on what could have been a double, that would negatively and directly affect his SLG, and again perhaps his runs scored indirectly. (Same thing if he jogged into 2nd base instead of hustling for a triple.)
If when playing 2nd base, he didn’t hustle after a ground ball in the hole, and a possible groundout went through for a single, that would show up in his Defensive Runs Saved, Zone Rating, and overall defensive rating.*
So if in fact, Robinson Cano didn’t hustle as much as most people think, all of that would have negatively affected his BA, OBP, SLG, WAR, and defensive ratings directly (and his runs scored, runs batted in, and fielding assists as well in some circumstances)…right…?
Well here’s the thing: Robinson Cano is the best 2nd baseman in MLB since Joe Morgan, one of the 10 best 2nd basemen of all time and the best in Yankees history.
So you could have blown out vocal chords booing Cano if you wanted to. But the reality is, if you took any hard-nosed, gritty, heart and soul 2nd baseman in MLB post 1980 other than Cano, you’d get your ass kicked a lot by the team that had Cano, all other things being equal.
So if you want to be pissed at Gary Sanchez for not hustling, go ahead. I get it. I was pissed too.
But know that it’s all sports radio drivel that doesn’t have anything to do with baseball when it comes down to it.
That being said…
If you want to get on Sanchez for not playing well, that’s a different discussion. On May 25th, he had an OBP/SLG line of .335/.545 – today it’s .283/.416. That is Ronald Torreyes level and is a God awful two months – the Yankees need better. Admittedly, when your “offensive” catcher is below league average offensively among catchers, you have a problem.
However, despite what you think you see, when factoring in throwing and pitch framing with the pitch blocking, he’s still better than league average defensively according to Fangraph’s and Baseball Prospectus’ ratings, as well as on the plus side of Baseball Reference’s dWAR.
Those discussions are fair, because they’re based on performance – what the player is doing or not doing and whether or not he’s contributing to team wins. Save all the other things you “think” he should be doing for sports talk radio.
*I’ve always found it ironic that for the most part, people who scream about players not hustling tend to eschew stats like DRS, UZR, Def, and dWAR – all of which penalize players for not getting to balls in play due to lack of hustle. But stats like errors and fielding percentage – two stats that tell you nothing about a player’s effort – will typically be quoted by that crowd.
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