With a starting pitching rotation that includes former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, and current Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez was somewhat over shadowed pitching in baseball's best starting rotation in 2013. Sanchez not only led the league among qualified starters with a 2.57 ERA, but he was second only to Scherzer in pitcher WAR, also led the league with a 2.39 fielding independent pitching (FIP) percentage, was third with a 10.0 strikeout per nine inning ratio, and had the lowest HR/9 ratio in the league at 0.45.
Sanchez finished fourth in the American League's Cy Young voting, and could easily have finished better if he had not missed a few starts due to a mid season injury. Sanchez made 29 starts and was incredibly consistent, twice allowing five earned runs, never more. He did not allow an earned run in six starts and allowed only one earned run in another eight starts.
Sanchez has posted an ERA of 2.91 with a WHIP of 1.19 in one and a half seasons with the Tigers, and had an ERA of 3.75 in six and a half years in Miami. The Tigers traded catcher Rob Brantly and pitcher Jacob Turner for Sanchez and Omar Infante at the trade deadline in 2013. Sanchez was due to become a free agent after that season, and the Tigers signed him to a five year, $ 80 million extension which now looks like a bargain.
The starting rotation is the Tigers' greatest strength, and Sanchez is a big part of that equation. They will need him to carry a regular load in 2014.
Odd Numbers: Sanchez has been particularly tough against AL Central teams. For his career, he has an 0.99 ERA with an 0.99 WHIP in 36.1 innings against the Kansas City Royals, and a 2.20 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP against the Cleveland Indians in seven starts.
Keys to Success: Sanchez simply needs to stay healthy and he will be a force to be reckoned with once again. While he pitched 182 innings in 29 starts in 2013, and has gone over 195 innings three times, he has never logged 200 innings in a season.
Outlook for 2014: Sanchez figures to be among the league leaders once again. He is as good as any pitcher in the American League.