What happened last season?
Sanchez put together another solid first half for the Miami Marlins, allowing a 3.94 ERA in 19 starts. He struggled in his first few starts after being traded to the Tigers in late July, but turned things around quickly. Over his last 8 regular season starts, Sanchez had a 2.15 ERA in 54 1/3 innings. He continued to excel in the playoffs, allowing a 1.77 ERA in his three starts.
He allowed just four runs in 20 1/3 innings in the playoffs, but ended the postseason with just a 1-2 record. This lack of run support was an issue for Sanchez for most of his stretch run as well. In the 8-game stretch mentioned above, Sanchez was 3-3 and the Tigers scored a total of 20 runs.
What needs to happen in 2013?
In a word, nothing, provided that the Sanchez we see this year is the same guy that finished last season on fire. I would like to see his strikeout rate improve -- Sanchez only struck out 6.8 batters per 9 innings with the Tigers in 2012 -- but I like that his walk rate declined once he got to Detroit. Odds are that these variances from his normally consistent rates are just due to a small sample of innings, but I don't think the Tigers are shelling out $80 million for Sanchez to be a contact pitcher.
He's also probably hoping that the Tigers actually score some runs for him, which would be nice.
2012 stats and 2013 projections
*WTF ZiPS? Haters gon' hate.
The part where I predict pretty much the same thing Bill James does
While I poke fun at the ZiPS projections above, I'm still not entirely convinced that Sanchez is going to continue to dominate the American League like he did late last season. For one, teams are going to be scouting him much more heavily now that he's in the AL. Also, small sample warnings apply anytime you're basing your entire prediction on less than 75 innings of work -- hi there, relievers everywhere. Even with those caveats, it's tough to not be optimistic about Sanchez's future with the Tigers. His pitching style seems to fit perfectly with how this team is built, especially with the upgrades made to both the lineup and the defense. I can't guarantee that the Tigers won't regret the big contract in several years, but it shouldn't be an issue in 2013.