Gary Sanchez Keeps Getting Worse

I just released my two simple projections and Gary Sánchez could not be any more polarizing. Using just last season’s stats, he projects to post a replacement-level .656 OPS. And when I use multiple years of StatCast data, he projects for a .889 OPS, the 4th best overall value. The difference comes down to BABIP regression.

To say Sánchez had a disappointing 2020 is a huge understatement. For the hitters with 170 or more plate appearances, his .618 OPS ranked 13th worse. His .147 AVG was the worst. It was fueled by a combination .159 BABIP (2nd worst only to Edwin Encarnacion) and 36% K% (6th worst). The single-season projection’s regression raises his BABIP up to .223 and his AVG to .193. They are better but still far from rosterable.

Transitioning to the optimistic StatCast data, I’ll keep it simple. Here are his 2020 league ranks on several StatCast metrics

The values are almost all at the extreme ends of the spectrum. My StatCast projections like that he hits the ball hard and in the air (Barrell%). After rooting around through the projections’ code, the disconnect between the two projections is with his BABIP.

First, here are historical StatCast BABIP projections:

Season BABIP
2017 .313
2018 .293
2019 .283
2020 .280
2021 .275

While his projected BABIP is on the decline, it’s still reasonable compared to his .159 BABIP this last season. Compared to other hitters, his 17.4% Barrell% should lead to more hits. Here are the six hitters closest to his Barrell% and their BABIP.

Gary Sanchez Comps
Name Barrell% BABIP
Matt Chapman 18% .291
Teoscar Hernández 18% .348
Brandon Lowe 18% .309
Bryce Harper 17% .279
Brandon Belt 17% .356
Eloy Jiménez 17% .340
Average .321
Gary Sanchez 17% .159

The other six average a .321 BABIP, almost twice what Sánchez posted. Digging even a bit deeper, Sanchez is getting eaten up by the shift.

While teams are reluctant to shift pull-happy right-handed hitters, they shift him. Since Sánchez is one of the league’s slowest players, he’s almost a guaranteed out when he puts the ball on the ground. Here is a short history of how the league has adjusted to a slowing player who pulled his batted balls at a career-high rate last year.

Gary Sanchez BABIP Inputs
Season GB% BABIP Shift% Pull% Sprint Speed League Rank
2016 .250 37% 54% 26.2 38%
2017 .240 38% 52% 26.1 33%
2018 .091 53% 51% 25.9 28%
2019 .149 74% 50% 25.5 23%
2020 .086 89% 58% 24.9 11%

The shift is just devouring all his groundballs as seen by the .086 BABIP on them. With so few hits, his career-high 36% strikeout rate destroyed any remaining hope for a decent batting average. I don’t see the strikeouts improving much since his strikeout rate has increased for three straight seasons (23% to 25% to 28% to 36%).

Overall, Gary Sánchez needs one or more of the following factors to improve while none of the others get any worse.

  • Quit pulling the ball (possible)
  • Make more contact (maybe)
  • Run faster (yea right)

I’m not betting on any of them. I think the best scenario is that he doesn’t get any worse. I think he’s degraded into an average catcher who has a .220 AVG and hits 15 to 25 HR. He needs to halt years of degrading talent just to stay even, let alone improve.


Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Sanchez just seems to have never got his timing down this year. At all. It may just be me, but it sure looks like his bat is more waggly to start his swing and he can’t hit most hard stuff well. He almost looks like late career Pujols where he is either having a hard time with the fastball or completely guessing wrong on breaking stuff. Might make a swing change/simplification to get him back on track.