We are officially 60 games into the 2018 season and Gary Sanchez is still struggling at the plate. He is currently hitting below the Mendoza Line (less than a .200 batting average) with a .194 batting average and an extremely pedestrian .296 on-base percentage.
Despite his shortcomings so far in 2018, Sanchez is one of the most talented hitters in baseball. Since getting called-up in 2016, he has been a key cog in the Yankees offense and along with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees lineup is built around their production.
So far, Sanchez’s approach at the plate has been consistent with his career, the only issue is he has been hitting into some bad luck. According to fangraphs, Gary has posted a .203 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) which shows that the balls he has been hitting have been directly at a fielder or have been made a play on. His previous career low was .304, and over the course of 162 games, we can expect a regression towards the mean.
Gary gained his nickname of “The Kraken” due to the sheer power he has at the plate and that type of talent doesn’t just disappear. Throughout his career, Sanchez has also been able to turn it on in the second half of the season.
The Kraken has shown a drastic increase in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, home runs, doubles, hits and runs batted in after the all-star break and we should expect the same from him this season.
Another encouraging sign from Sanchez is his average Exit Velocity. According to statcast, Gary has actually been hitting the ball at 90.3 MPH on average, (his career average is 91.1) and he also has been barreling up more balls this season than in previous years at 14.3% of his swings (career average is 13.2). How hard a player hits the ball is extremely important because it shows that they are seeing the ball well at the plate and they are able to get the bat head to the ball. In Sanchez’s case it shows that he is hitting the ball with the barrel of the bat more frequently with the same velocity, but getting more outs.
One thing that is not helping his case either is the fact that backup catcher Austin Romine has been having a career year hitting. Romine has always been a great backup option for the Yankees; a strong defender who can hit pretty well with runners in scoring position, but this year he has drastically improved his approach.
With a .343 AVG and a .425 OBP Romine has been hitting to a clip that even Gary Sanchez at his best can’t contain. That is not to say that Romine should be the everyday option though, he is a great piece to have on the team, but not in a starting roll.
Despite being in the worst slump in his career, Sanchez has posted numbers that are actually overall around league average. Gary has posted a 100 wRC+, or weighted runs created +; an overall statistic that shows the overall value of a batters’ plate appearances (100 is league average).
The Kraken will terrorize pitchers again this season, and when his numbers regress towards the mean, Sanchez will regain his rank as the best hitting catcher in all of baseball.