In recent years, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have been the two most heralded members of the Detroit Tigers‘ pitching staff, but one could make the argument that Anibal Sanchez has been equally as important since becoming a Tiger in July of 2012. It is hard to imagine where the Tigers would have been without him in 2013, and it is vital that he remains healthy for the remainder of 2014.
When the Tigers signed Sanchez to a five-year, $80 million contract in December of 2012, many believed that it was an unwise investment, which was due in part to his history of injuries. However, Sanchez certainly earned his paycheck last season as he won 14 games, recorded 202 strikeouts and posted an AL-best 2.57 ERA. This season, though, Sanchez got off to a rather mediocre start, going 0-2, but with a solid 3.13 ERA in his first five starts. He then ended up going on the DL for nearly a month due to a blister problem.
Since returning, however, Sanchez has gone 2-0 with a sparkling ERA of 2.25 and has truly resembled the pitcher the Tigers saw all of last season. His record now stands at 2-2 with a 2.83 ERA, and he also has an impressive WHIP of 1.11. It is imperative that the healthy and dominant Sanchez who has been showing up lately continues to show up down the stretch.
The Tigers may have fared well during Sanchez’s absence and the young Robbie Ray certainly did an exceptional job filling in for him during his first two starts, but Ray showed signs in his latest outing that he still needs more work in the minor leagues, which is where he now is. Furthermore, the Tigers have also seen rough outings by Verlander, Scherzer and Rick Porcello over the past week. Heading into Sunday, the Tigers have only won two of their last seven games and Sanchez has started both of them.
Now that Sanchez is back, it is imperative that he stays back. When Sanchez is healthy and at the top of his game, he can be just as good as Scherzer and Verlander. After all, this is a guy who set a new franchise record on April 26 of last season by striking out 17 Atlanta Braves. Less than a month later, on May 24, Sanchez threw the fourth one-hitter of his career against the Minnesota Twins, which came very close to being the second no-hitter of his career until Joe Mauer spoiled it.
Sanchez could very easily be a front-of-the-rotation starter for another MLB team, and there are not many places other than Detroit where Sanchez would be a No. 3. The Tigers are very fortunate to have a guy like him in the middle of their rotation who they know can “stop the bleeding” when the team is scuffling, which is a job that traditionally falls upon the ace. If Sanchez can stay healthy and continue to pitch the way that he is capable of, he could be a rock that the Tigers could lean on down the stretch.