Detroit Tigers: Is Anibal Sanchez’s Health Reliable in 2016?

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Aug 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aug 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

After the 2013 season, Anibal Sanchez’s 6-year $80 million contract seemed like a steal for the Detroit Tigers. He won the ERA crown with his 2.57 ERA, but his health has hampered his 2014 and 2015 seasons. Can the Tigers rely on Sanchez to pitch all of 2016? 

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In 2014, Sanchez only made 21 starts in an injury shortened season with a strained pectoral muscle. This injury hampered the Tigers rotation down the stretch and into the postseason. Sanchez’s health and Brad Ausmus’s poor management led the Tigers to pull Sanchez in the postseason, leading to a sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.

2015 was a disaster for Sanchez. He made 25 starts in another injury shortened season: this time with an injured rotator cuff.

On top of his injury, Sanchez suffered every adjustment to his numbers. Sanchez surrendered 29 home runs in 25 starts, after surrendering a combined 13 the previous two seasons with the Tigers. Sanchez’s ERA and FIP also took a large step back. His ERA went from 2.57 in 2013 to 3.43 in 2014 and 4.99 in 2015. In terms of his FIP, it increased from 2.39 to 2.71, to 4.73 over the same three year stretch.

Sanchez may have been hurt the past two seasons, but his fastball has not fallen off in velocity. FanGraphs has rated Sanchez’s fastball at 92.8, 92.1 and 91.8 mph from 2013-2015 and his sinker consistently at 92.2. Sanchez has not changed his fastball use (always between 32.3-33.4% with the Tigers), so it’s his location that is the problem.

The 2015 season may have just been a bad year with injuries for Sanchez, but he has not been healthy for the past two seasons. If he cannot stay healthy in 2016 or has problems with his location once again, the Tigers rotation will take a significant hit, much like 2014 and 2015 without him.

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For the Detroit Tigers to make a playoff run, they need Sanchez to be healthy and effective.

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