Jays From the Couch looks into his first 3 starts and finds continued adjustment to Toronto Blue Jays’ starter, Aaron Sanchez’ repertoire
The Toronto Blue Jays could not be more happy to have Aaron Sanchez and his finger back in the rotation and looking healthy. The argument can easily be made that his absence was a major reason the club could not make a run at the postseason. Getting him back and healthy means so much for their 2018 chances.
His last start saw him take a no hitter into the 8th inning against the Orioles. He seemed to be cruising along to the point where the debate over jinxing a no-no raged on social media. I wanted to take a look at what made Sanchez so effective that night.
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wrote an interesting piece about Sanchez using his change up more. In fact, through his career, he had used it very little. But, in his first two starts in 2018, he increased the usage dramatically. His second start of the year, he threw the White Sox 32% change ups. Not only is he using it more, Sullivan points out that it has more vertical movement than ever, where the bottom falls out of it. Sanchez adjusted his delivery of the change, likely altering his grip.
Statcast tends to agree with Sullivan’s assessment. Check out the visual representation of Sanchez’ change up against the White Sox:
First of all, you will notice the number of change ups, making up 31 of his 98 pitches. More interesting details on the change: He got an average rotation of 1933 rpm. Looking at his first start of the 2017 season, he saw an average rpm of 2341. The image on the right shows the overall movement and the one on the left shows 50ms break down of said movement.
Against the White Sox, he landed just 4 change ups in the strike zone, 11 were in the “shadow” of the zone and 16 were outside of the zone. Only 4 change ups were hit in play and none of them went for a base hit. He ended up striking out 7 batters that day and giving up 2 walks. With the change up being successful, Sanchez decided to build on it against the Orioles.
Taking a no hitter into the 8th inning against the Orioles was delicious in and of itself, but the way Sanchez went about his business was more so. He threw his change up nearly 43% of the time: 42 of 98. The next highest total was for his two seamer, which was used 26 times. As Sullivan pointed out, Sanchez isn’t getting much velocity separation, with an average of 87.5 mph and a high of 92.5 mph. He saw an average rotation of 1968 rpm. He had an even split of 14 pitches in the zone, the shadows and outside.
Of his 42 change ups, only 7 were hit in play and 2 went for base hits. The difference between the White Sox game and the Orioles game is that Sanchez was landing his change up lower in (and out of) the zone against Chicago. In Baltimore, he was around the strike zone more, which gave him more success. Now, he did walk 5 batters on the night. 14 of his change ups landed outside the zone and the rest of his offerings totaled 16 outside the zone, with his curve ball accounting for half of that.
Sanchez is starting to increase the amount of change ups he is throwing, which is paying off more and more each time. Against the Orioles, he had one of the better starts we’ve seen in a while and it is thanks to the increased usage of the change up. He already has wicked movement on his other offerings, so if he can continue this run of a very effective change, he very well could see even better results this season.
We know Sanchez can pump gas. But, his change is better than it has ever been. Fangraphs gives it a wCH value of 2.2, by far its best mark. In fact, his change is his best pitch in 2018. He has learned this and is starting to increase the usage. Sanchez is evolving right before our eyes. There is often a saying in baseball about pitchers going from throwers to pitchers. Sanchez has been a hard throwing young stud. Now, it appears he is becoming a pitcher. The rest of the league had better watch out.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.