Why has Gary Sanchez struggled?

Gary Sanchez has not lived up to expectations in 2020. Is there a logical explanation as to why the all-star catcher is slumping?

2020 has been a frustrating year thus far, to say the least, but for the majority Yankee fans, one of the more frustrating things has to be watching Gary Sanchez hit. His season statistics back up the misery of watching him pretty similarly. He is slashing .130/.242/.330, with a 56 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), .254 wOBA (weighted on-base average), .200 ISO (Isolated Power), 10.6 BB% (Walk Percentage), 39.4 K% (Strikeout Percentage), and a -0.1 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement). To say the least, these are not good numbers. This is pretty strange given that Gary Sanchez before 2020 was a career 123 wRC+ hitter (23% above league average). So, if he has been a really good hitter throughout his career, why is he all of a sudden hitting like one of the worst hitters in all of baseball?

Sanchez and his Streakiness

One reason is that he has been an incredibly streaky hitter throughout his career. Sanchez’s best career month at the dish was his rookie season in August 2016, where he slashed .390/.458/.832 with a 240 wRC+. Meanwhile, the worst month of his career was probably June of 2018, where he slashed .121/.255/.259 with a 31 wRC+. Clearly, we can see a massive gap between his best month (at a 240 wRC+) versus his worst month (31 wRC+). Personally, because it feels like the season just started and the season started so late, that it is sometimes hard to remember that we are about a month and a half into the season. Even if we look at Gary’s wRC+ from August of 2020, it sits at 89, which is significantly better than his cumulative 56. As Yankee fans, we can only hope that we get the borderline elite Gary for the postseason, especially if guys like Judge, and Stanton are not fully healthy for the playoffs.

Luck of the Draw?

Although the reasoning above is a pretty reasonable assumption, I think there is a significantly more logically sound answer, which is that Gary Sanchez is getting incredibly unlucky. There are a couple of identifiers and statistics that indicate this to us. One of them is the BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) stat. The average is .300, and above that generally means you get lucky in some way, and below that means you get unlucky. Gary Sanchez’s BABIP is .143, which is one of the worst in baseball. What shows that he gets even more unlucky, is his batted ball data. His average exit velocity is 92.1 MPH, which is in the top 9th percentile in all of baseball. His barrel% is 17.5, which is in the top 4 percentile in all of baseball. To summarize all of this, Gary Sanchez hits the ball at an incredibly hard rate, but they just are not dropping. 

Unfortunately, there is no solution to this problem, besides potentially cutting down on his strikeouts and walking more, but Gary can’t control how unlucky or lucky he gets. Just like us, he has to hope that come playoff time the balls that are not getting down, begin to. 

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