There are few MLB teams other than the Detroit Tigers that are fortunate enough to have a pitching rotation where a guy like Anibal Sanchez can be overshadowed and star in near anonymity. In a rotation that features Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, it is understandable how Sanchez continues to fly under the radar.
Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP award winner, has been the face of the Tigers’ organization ever since his rookie campaign of 2006. Scherzer was, of course, the talk of baseball last season and took home the 2013 AL Cy Young award after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
However, it was Sanchez who recorded an AL-best 2.57 ERA last season while winning 14 games. It was also Sanchez who set a new franchise record by striking out 17 Atlanta Braves on the night of Apr. 26 of last year, and he just barely missed the second no-hitter of his career on the night of May 24 against the Minnesota Twins. Instead, it turned out to be the fourth one-hitter of his career after Joe Mauer lined a single up the middle in the ninth inning. Scherzer, as of right now, has still yet to throw his first complete game.
Sanchez placed fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2013, and many Tigers fans are eager to see what 2014 has in store for the 30-year-old. However, the key for Sanchez will be to stay healthy, as a look at his track record will reveal that injuries have been a problem for him ever since 2007. He was even dealing with shoulder issues in Spring Training of this season already. If Sanchez can manage to stay healthy, though, he should have a legitimate shot at winning his first Cy Young award in 2014 as he appears to be coming into his prime.
It is also important to note that Sanchez is certainly good enough to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher for another team, and by being the Tigers’ No. 3 starter, he will not be tasked with taking on the ace of the opposing team all of the time. This could, in turn, allow him to win more games.
Wins may no longer be the most important statistic, though, as Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners won the Cy Young award in 2010 with a 13-12 record but had a microscopic ERA of 2.27. If Sanchez records another ERA that is on par with the one he had last season, that alone should earn him consideration, just as it did last year.
Verlander and Scherzer will likely remain the most talked about members of the Tigers’ staff, but it could be the quiet Sanchez who puts together the best season of all of them if he can just manage to avoid the injuries.