December 12, 2013
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Thursday, May 16, 2013
It seems way too easy to compare Jonathan Sanchez to Oliver Perez. They're both lanky left-handers with similar stuff and around the same age who had early success before the wheels came off. The comparison is so easy that it runs the risk of seeming lazy, something I've warned about in the past, but this is one of those situations where the fit is just really strong.
Sanchez, who was cut by the Pirates after posting an 11.85 ERA in five outings (including four starts), is about to sign a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Some are using the move to belittle the Dodgers as an example of how desperate they are, but like many minor league deals, this is a low-risk, high-reward transaction.
Perez and Sanchez both had their first big year in their third season in the majors. For Perez that was 2004, where he posted a 2.98 ERA in 30 starts thanks to a 3.45 FIP and 3.62 xFIP (good for 4.4 WAR overall). For Sanchez that was 2008, where he amassed 2.6 WAR thanks to a 3.85 FIP. His 5.01 ERA was obviously high, but a .317 BABIP (as compared to his .294 career mark) and a left-on-base percent of just 67.5 contributed mightily to that number.
After 2004 Perez imploded, tallying consecutive years of below-replacement level WAR and FIPs above five. Sanchez actually had a nice run after 2008, with ERAs of 4.24 and 3.07 the next two seasons.
After finding a home with the Mets in 2006 (and even starting and pitching decently in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS), Perez had pretty good seasons in '07 and '08, posting solid ERA's that were significantly below his FIP and xFIP. In 2009, Sanchez hit a road bump when he started just nineteen games and walked 5.86 batters per nine innings, a career high. Still, he put up a 4.26 ERA and a nearly identical FIP, so it wasn't all that bad.
Then both pitchers simply became shells of their former selves in exactly the same way: they started walking everybody. For Perez it was the 2009 season, when he became a villain in Queens by posting a 6.82 ERA and walking 7.91 batters per nine innings. He was even worse the next year (if that's possible to believe), finishing at -1.1 WAR for the season. He was released by the Mets and could not make a major league roster for the 2011 season.
For Sanchez, the crash happened last year. Like Perez, he went from walking four to five batters per nine to walking over seven, and his strikeouts decreased as well, leading to a perfect storm of terrible pitching. In 15 starts he had a 8.07 ERA, a truly horrid number. But it was last season when Perez put himself together. After finding an opportunity in Seattle's bullpen, Perez had the lowest walk rate of his career (3.09/9) and finished with an astounding 2.12 ERA in 33 appearances, pitching primarily to left-handers.
This season has been even worse for Sanchez, who now finds himself, like Perez in 2011, off a major league roster. Although his ERA was 11.85, he did have a 5.03 xFIP (a HR/FB rate of 36.8 percent, as well as a .419 BABIP, really did him in). Perez is shining once again this year with a 1.17 ERA and 3.58 FIP.
What the Dodgers need to do is what the Mariners did with Perez: put him in the bullpen and make him a LOOGY. Here are the career splits for the two relievers:
vs. lefties: .223/.315/.364 (3.03 wOBA), 3.36 xFIP
vs. righties: .243/.355/.431 (.345 wOBA), 5.01 xFIP
vs. lefties: .215/.313/.363 (3.04 wOBA), 3.75 xFIP
vs. righties: .245/.356/.416 (.342 wOBA), 4.58 xFIP
Those numbers are strikingly similar, and it shows that neither is good enough versus lefties to make up for how mediocre they are versus righties. The best bet is the bullpen, where they can be mixed and matched late in the game. That's what the Dodgers should do with Sanchez, and if they don't figure it out, somebody else will.
Mariners 12, Yankees 2: This one was over almost before it started, with Phil Hughes getting knocked around for seven runs in the first inning, which he did not escape. Raul Ibanez hit two homers and drove in six off his old team. Which, I imagine, will cause some columnist who has been lauding Brian Cashman for putting together a chemistry-laden scappy bunch of no-names this past offseason to change gears and talk about how much of a mistake it was for him not to re-sign Ibanez.
Cardinals 4, Mets 2: Shelby Miller didn't get the decision and wasn't particularly sharp, but he did pitch five and two-thirds shutout innings and left with a lead. Rick Ankiel, like Ibanez, hit a homer against his former team. He said this after the game:
"It's unfortunate we didn't win but for me it's a positive, so I'm happy about it. For me it was just fun to do because it was against that team."
Yeah, you really want to stick it to that team if you're Ankiel. I mean, after all they did to him, sticking with him for years while he completely transformed himself in the minors and dealt with multiple career-threatening injuries when just about every other team would've released him. Yep, they really had it comin'.
Rangers 6, Athletics 2: Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer and made this diving catch off Brandon Moss. Not too shabby. Also not shabby: The Rangers have a seven-game lead in the division despite the fact they've played 25 of their 40 games on the road.
Diamondbacks 5, Braves 3: Paul Goldschmidt hit three doubles and Eric Chavez drove in three as the Braves lose yet again. They probably need to win a few in a row sometime soon or else the thing I'm comforting myself with -- that this team is gonna be streaky -- is not going to be true. They're just gonna be kinda blah.
White Sox 9, Twins 4: Who woke up Adam Dunn? He hit two homers and drove in five. But now he's gonna be up all night and that's no good.
Indians 10, Phillies 4: Cole Hamels is now 1-6 with a 4.61 ERA after being beat up by Cleveland. But at least Carlos Zambrano will be around soon to help out the pitching staff.
Astros 7, Tigers 5: Carlos Corporan hit a tiebreaking double in the top of the ninth and Miguel Cabrera's would-be game-winning three-run home run fell just short of the wall in the bottom of the ninth to end the game. Houston finally wins one against a Tigers team which has abused the the Astros in two straight series.
Padres 8, Orioles 4: San Diego sweeps Baltimore in the two-game series behind a 17-hit attack. The Padres are now 13-6 in their last 19. A nice bounce-back after dropping all three against Tampa Bay.
Reds 4, Marlins 0: Shin-Soo Choo with two homers. He's hitting .322/.465/.589 with nine bombs on the season. Mercy.
Pirates 3, Brewers 1: Yovani Gallardo was 7-0 in his last eight starts against the Pirates, but Wandy Rodriguez outdueled him.
Cubs 6, Rockies 3: Jeff Samardzija pulls a Baseball Bugs, hitting a two-run homer and pitching eight strong innings.
Red Sox 9, Rays 2: A costly loss for the Rays as they drop not only the game but lose David Price to an injured triceps (or is it tricepts?). Meanwhile, Jon Lester improves to 6-0. Stephen Drew hit a grand slam.
Dodgers 3, Nationals 1: Zack Greinke was apparently ready to return. He allowed one run in five and a third and didn't walk anyone while striking out four. He added an RBI single to boot.
Blue Jays 11, Giants 3: Shh! Four in a row for the Jays. If they keep this up and climb back into contention a lot of early-season memes will be obsolete, eh? Ryan Vogelsong gets rocked again. He may lose his slot in the rotation.
Royals 9, Angels 5: The Angels seem less into meme-busting, as they drop two of three to the Royals. Billy Butler came into Anaheim in a slump. Then went 8-for-13 with a homer and nine RBI in the series. They must serve some good country breakfast in Orange County.