clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anibal Sanchez's issues are becoming too great for Tigers to ignore

Sanchez's issues have become a troublesome trend.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

DETROIT -- It's no secret Anibal Sanchez's starts have been a disaster this season. Continuing work has not shown progress. Whatever he and the Detroit Tigers have been tinkering with, it's not working. The Sanchez that the team and fans have seen in the past hasn't shown up. Flashes of it, sure, but not for any prolonged length of time, and at some point the team is going to need to reassess his role if he doesn't turn it around.

It's "only" May, but June is nearly here. That "at some point" may need to come sooner rather than later if the Tigers have any hope of winning starts currently being occupied by Sanchez. In April, the argument could be made momentary issues. The first month is horrible for Justin Verlander, too, but come May he dominates and life goes back to normal. That has not been the case with Sanchez.

"The sixth has been a tough inning for him, and we know that," acting manager Gene Lamont said after the Tigers' 8-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. "It's something where we're trying to ease him along, and I'm sure Sanchie's getting, he's getting frustrated, you can tell that. If we didn't know how good a pitcher he can be, it'd be different but we know what he has in (his arsenal)."

Set aside the long history of injury issues for a moment. That's the one thing not on the list of concerns for Sanchez this season. Wednesday marked Sanchez's 10th start of the season. The Tigers have now lost seven of his last eight starts. In all but one of those losses, he gave up at least five runs in each start.

He went into the sixth or later four times and in three of those starts he gave up three, three, and one run apiece in the last inning he came out for. Two of those games would have been wins without the runs allowed by Sanchez in the final inning -- one was a blowout loss, the other a shutout. That also does not include the other games where he allowed runs in his final frame on fewer than six innings of work.

When his pitch count crosses 75 pitches, Sanchez becomes a liability, and even then it's not a guarantee. He's been bitten by the long ball in all but two of his starts (an April 6 win and a May 4 loss) and he's allowed two home runs in a start on three occasions. He's allowed 11 in all, tied with Jered Weaver for second-most in the American League.

Regardless of Sanchez's track record in the past, there comes a point where the struggles cease to be temporary and they become a trend. No matter how you slice it, his outings are a roller coaster ride and the only consistent factor is the mounting losses. Wednesday was more of the same.

"He was inconsistent,"  Lamont said. "He had some real good innings like he got in a groove and then all of a sudden'd hang a pitch. We know how good of stuff he has, but he just needs to put it together. For his confidence, I think he needs to put seven, eight good innings together and right now he hasn't been able to do that."

It's so concerning because after 10 starts, there really has been no progress. For all the work being put in, the results aren't getting any worse. They're remaining consistently tank-worthy.

Sanchez acknowledged his issues aren't mechanics-related and the results track with that assessment. He'll have a stretch where he's solid, unhittable at times, even, and then he'll get destroyed on a mistake pitch. That happens for every pitcher during the season, but with Sanchez those mistakes are happening with far too great a frequency. He currently owns a nauseatingly high 5.57 FIP, 4.53 BB/9, and his HR/9 is 1.84.

At some point he'll miss with his pitch location and get bit, and once that 75-80 pitch mark or the sixth/seventh inning comes around, he tanks. Worse still, is the fact that the Tigers continue to try and stretch him beyond where he has shown a track record of at least moderate success. Yes, he's paid for mistakes early on in games, but they're less frequent than the times when he gives up a home run or hard hit base hit that scores multiple runs.

Currently, Sanchez has only two pitches to work with on borrowed time -- his fastball and changeup -- and he can only be logically trusted to go five innings deep before he shows heavy signs of wearing out. Yes, the Tigers want him to build confidence again, but if he can't even solve the issues that are occurring within that five-inning time frame, the question becomes whether he has any business going deep into games.

Perhaps he'll figure it out in the near future and go on to be the dominant starter with a devastating butterfly changeup for the remainder of the year, but right now, he's a guaranteed loss for the team whenever he starts.

The Tigers' offense can drive in as many runs as they want, but for the time being, Sanchez isn't going to give them a chance at a win. And at some point in the near future, the team needs to reassess whether he should remain in the rotation. Because the current situation isn't working.