Looking back at the trade between the Detroit Tigers and the Miami Marlins that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers in exchange for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn, it is clear that the Tigers won the deal. Sanchez had always been a decent starting pitcher, but in his first full season with the Tigers, he has transformed himself into one of MLB‘s best.
Sanchez has good career stats: he is 62-59 with a 3.55 ERA and 8.01 K/9. In 2013, Sanchez went from good to great. In 29 starts, Sanchez pitched 182 innings and posted a 2.57 ERA. His peripheral numbers all improved on his career averages too. His 9.99 K/9 in 2013 was better than his career 8.01 K/9, and his 2.67 BB/9 was much better than his career 3.20 BB/9.
Along with piling up strikeouts and limiting free passes, Sanchez also gave up very few home runs. He has never been all that vulnerable to the home run, but he posted a career-best 0.45 HR/9 last season along with a career-best 6.2 fWAR.
Even though the Tigers disappointed in the postseason and didn’t advance to the World Series, Sanchez did his best to get them there. Even though he struggled in his only ALDS start, he came up big in the ALCS. In two starts against the Boston Red Sox, Sanchez pitched 12 innings and had a 2.25 ERA. He also put up a dominant 12.8 K/9 in the ALCS and allowed just 6.8 H/9.
During his tenure with the Marlins, I always looked at Sanchez as the perfect mid-rotation starter. He was able to eat up quality innings, pitching to an ERA of less than 4.00 in most seasons, but never really becoming the front-of-the-rotation starter that he became with the Tigers. I don’t know what changed after the trade, but Sanchez has finally reached his peak and the Tigers are enjoying the benefits.