The Kranken is back, once and for all

Catcher Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees is playing at an extraordinarily high level right now — you just have to dig further than than his unspectacular .250 AVG and .325 OBP in order to grasp it.

Last year, Sanchez struggled mightily, hitting for a mere .186 AVG and .291 OBP; he managed to hit only 18 long balls in 374 plate appearances. His campaign was a setback by all means, plagued by injury after injury. Ultimately, Sanchez regressed in every way possible in 2018 (2017 AVG: .278; 2017 OBP: .345; 2017 HR: 33). But this year is another story.

Gary Sanchez currently leads the Yankees with six HRs — which ranks as the second highest total in the majors (tied with Jay Bruce, behind only Cody Bellinger) — despite suffering from extreme batted ball misfortunate. There is a .131 point difference between Sanchez’s wOBA (.200) and xwOBA (.331 – per Statcast unless otherwise noted). His xBA (.349) and xSLG (.998) are much more impressive than his actual measures (BA: .250; SLG: .750).

Long story short, Sanchez has been tearing the cover off the ball. Sanchez already has 10 barrels and his Brls/PA is 25%, which is the highest percentage in the MLB among hitters with at least ten batted ball events. His Brls/PA last year was 8.6%, and he had 32 barrels in 2018. If he were to maintain a ridiculous 25% Brls/PA rate, he would theoretically have ~93 barrels when he reaches 374 PA (his 2018 total) in 2019 (almost three times as many as he had in 2018). His 93.5 mph AVG exit velocity ranks as the 33rd (tied with Jonathan Schoop) highest among hitters with at least ten batted ball events and is 3.2 mph harder than his 2018 AVG exit velocity.

In terms of plate discipline numbers, Sanchez hasn’t changed all that much from last year…

2018

  • Z-Swing%: 62.4
  • O-Swing%: 32.3
  • Z-Contact%: 86.4
  • O-Contact%: 55.7
  • Swing%: 43.9
  • SwStr%: 12.1

2019

  • Z-Swing%: 59.4
  • O-Swing%: 36.8
  • Z-Contact%: 80.5
  • O-Contact%: 62.9
  • Swing%: 46.3
  • SwStr%: 12.8

Gary Sanchez’s early season success can (presumably) be attributed to the implementation of a new swing. The sole purpose of this new swing is to unleash more power through hitting fly balls with a greater frequency, as conveyed below…

2019 batted ball profile

  • GB%: 24.1 (-22.8 from last year)
  • LD%: 10.3 (-4.0)
  • FB%: 65.5 (+22.6)

Sanchez’s new swing is more of an uppercut approach, which is leading to increased fly ball output. His LA (launch angle) is up 8.7 degrees (2018 LA: 14.2; 2019 LA: 22.9) and ranks as the 24th highest in the MLB among hitters with at least 10 batted ball events.

2018 LA percentile (higher percentiles indicate a higher LA – among hitters with at least 100 batted ball events): 66.7

2019 LA percentile (among hitters with at least 10 batted ball events): 92.1

There’s plenty of reason to think that Sanchez’s numbers could climb into unprecedented territory for him (chance for 40 HR!), and he could potentially prove to be an X-factor in the AL East pennant race.

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