2013 was the best season in Anibal Sanchez’s career. He posted a career best 14-8 record, 2.57 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 202 K’s, 2.39 FIP, 2.91 xFIP and a WAR of 6.2. Sanchez signed a 5-year $80 million deal and earned it in 2013. Sanchez finished 4th in the Cy Young voting behind Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, and Hisashi Iwakuma. Sanchez was the 3rd starter on the Tigers in 2013 where he would have been the number 2 starter at worst on every other team, with the exception of possibly the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Scherzer’s breakout season in 2013 led to Sanchez’s year being underappreciated by many in Detroit and nationally around baseball. If Sanchez puts up identical numbers in 2014, but has a better win-loss record than 2013, he will be the front runner for American League Cy Young.
Sanchez may regress in 2014, but it should not be too big. His career ERA is 3.55, a full run over his 2013 ERA, but that ERA has been 2.91 while with the Tigers. Sanchez’s K/9, K/BB and HR/9 were at their best in his career in 2013. Sanchez’s K/BB higher in 2013 than the full 2012 season when he was traded to the Tigers from the Miami Marlins, but lower than his time with the Tigers in 2012 because his BB/9 were up a bit in 2013. The elevated walk rate is to be expected with someone who gets as many swing and misses at Sanchez does.
If Sanchez can raise his innings per start in 2014 and stay healthy, he may be the front runner for the Cy Young. Scherzer’s big improvement, besides his win-loss record in 2013, was the fact that he was consistent with the location of his stuff which led to more effective innings when he needed them. If Sanchez can keep his pitch count down and get quicker innings, he will be able to go longer in games. Sanchez already went 7 innings or longer in 12 of his 29 starts and went at least 6 in 21 of those starts. In his 12 starts where Sanchez went 7 innings or longer, he was 11-0 with 1 no decision. When he went less than 7, Sanchez was 3-8.
The win-loss record is not the be all, end all stat, but 11-0 is pretty telling. If Sanchez can last longer in games and put up relatively similar stats otherwise, he could be the 3rd different Tigers pitcher to win the Cy Young in 4 seasons.