Detroit Tigers Player Preview: Anibal Sanchez

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Mar 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since joining the Detroit Tigers in 2012, Anibal Sanchez has gone from the American League ERA champ to leading the home run leader in only two years.

Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) works out at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) works out at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

He hasn’t had a full healthy season with the Detroit Tigers since 2012 and he could be pivotal for the 2016 rotation. He is one of the many question marks entering the 2016 season.

The Detroit Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez at the 2012 trade deadline. He pitched well down the stretch, helping the team win its second of four division titles. He was strong in the postseason, posting a 1.77 ERA in three starts. In 2013 he had by far the best year of his career. Despite missing several starts, he had the lowest ERA in the American League at 2.57 and allowed the fewest home runs per nine innings at 0.4.

The 2013 season included him striking out 17 batters against the Atlanta Braves, setting a new franchise record, and taking a no-hitter one out into the 9th against the Minnesota Twins before allowing a base hit to Joe Mauer. He arguably showed flashes of vulnerability in the 2013 postseason. Although he threw 6 no-hit innings in game 1 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, he gave up 6 runs to the Oakland Athletics in game 3 of the ALDS and 4 runs to the Boston Red Sox in game 5 of the ALCS. He had an injury-shortened season in 2014. Despite only making 21 starts, he was effective when he was in, posting a 3.43 ERA.

The big trouble started in 2015. With another injury-shortened season he only made 25 starts, yet somehow led the league in home runs, allowing 29. His ERA skyrocketed to 4.99. His goal in 2016 is to allow fewer hard hit balls and find that dominant form from 2013.

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario for Anibal Sanchez is that he somehow doesn’t allow the hard contact that hitters had last season and that he stays healthy. It’s tough to tell what exactly happened to his pitches since they all fell apart in one season, but he might want to try mixing up his pitches more or leaving fewer balls up in the strike zone. If he could somehow recapture what he had in 2013 and stay healthy, he would quickly become the ace of a staff that at this point has no clear ace. Having a starter with a 2.57 ERA or anything near that for a full season could give the pitching staff a whole new look.

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Worst Case Scenario

The worst case scenario for Anibal Sanchez is that he repeats what he did last season. He was one of the many reasons the Tigers’ pitching staff was one of the worst in the league, and if he does it again this season he could hold the whole team back. The Tigers are looking for a bounce back from their starting rotation so another ERA near 5 would derail that. If he struggles that mightily there’s even the slight chance he could get moved to the bullpen or even sent down to the minors if another starter is able to take his spot.

Next: Detroit Tigers: Week Three Reviews and Updates

Anibal Sanchez is one of many x-factors on the 2016 Detroit Tigers. A good year could save the staff and a bad year could sink it. His 2016 could determine his future role on the team.

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