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August 29, 2016

What You Need to Know

Everything Is Gary Sanchez

by Ashley Varela


The Weekend Takeaway
If you thought Trevor Story’s record-breaking April was the only time we’d see a rookie rake in his major-league debut season, you need to meet Gary Sanchez. It isn’t just that the 23-year-old catcher is cultivating a .400/.467/.900 batting line, or that he became the first rookie to hit 11 home runs in his first 23 games with this blast off of a Dylan Bundy heater,

or that he’s only gone hitless in three of 24 games, and failed to reach base in only two outings, or that he’s nearly as good with a glove as he is with a bat:

It’s the combination of all of those things, wrapped up in a neat 2.3 WARP package and shipped to Yankee Stadium at a time when the Yankees sit 3.5 games out of the wild card race and 6.5 games back from first place. It’s the combination of all of those things in the face of the Yankees’ lackluster catching situation, one that relied on Brian McCann’s veteran presence behind the plate and, by some measure of grace, missed the offensive and defensive growing pains of one Jesus Montero.

Not only is Sanchez sporting the raw numbers every Montero enthusiast dreamed of back in 2011, but his speed on the basepaths and his ability to adjust to opposing pitchers continue to work in the Yankees’ favor. During Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles, a 5-0 affair that came on the heels of a 13-run drive the night before, Sanchez swung at a pair of Tommy Hunter curveballs in the dirt, then recovered to drive the ball into left field for a double.

Less successful was his attempt to go first-to-third during Mark Teixeira’s at-bat several innings earlier, but, needless to say, it looked nothing like this:

Notwithstanding Sanchez’s historic start to his career, a .451 TAv and .500 ISO is hardly sustainable for much longer. Still, with a month of regular-season games left to play, the Yankees have to hope that Sanchez’s hot streak won’t flare out until they’ve wormed their way into the postseason.

Quick Hits from the Weekend
At 6-foot-2 and 170 lbs., Luke Weaver might not fit the physical profile of a major-league hurler, but that didn’t stop him from dismantling a major-league lineup on Friday night.

The Cardinals have been in a bit of a bind since Michael Wacha went to the disabled list with a shoulder injury and Mike Leake was scratched from Saturday’s start with shingles, prompting the club to call up Weaver and fellow rookie right-hander Alex Reyes to fill the gaps in the rotation. Weaver carried a 1.40 ERA over 77 innings in Double-A Springfield and recorded just one start in Triple-A Memphis prior to his call to the majors. If there was any doubt that his exceptional control (a 1.3 BB/9 rate over 83 innings in Double- and Triple-A in 2016) would translate to a bigger stage, those fears evaporated in Busch Stadium. After a couple of abbreviated starts on the road, he made his home debut to the tune of one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings.

Weaver ran into a little trouble in the second inning when Yonder Alonso turned this pitch


into this right field souvenir,

but he pitched through the next four frames without incident, allowing only three more hits and stranding both of the A’s runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals, for their part, fished the winning run out of a sacrifice double play:

***

This is the strike zone that was called against left-handed batters during the Tigers-Angels game on Saturday night,

and the zone that was called against right-handed batters:

At a glance, maybe three calls clearly fell in the Tigers’ favor, and six calls went the Angels’ way, with about three borderline calls in the Tigers’ favor and five borderline calls in the Angels’ favor.

Perhaps this is the kind of thing a major-league manager would overlook on a good night, the kind where Miguel Cabrera goes 4-for-4 with a five-run lead in the eighth inning. Unfortunately for the Tigers, who wound up on the losing end of a 3-2 nail-biter, that was not the kind of oversight Brad Ausmus was prepared to make.

Instead, Ausmus and hitting coach Wally Joyner went head-to-head with home plate umpire Mike Everitt over a called strike three to Ian Kinsler

and were booted from the game alongside Victor Martinez, who argued his way out of the game in the third inning,

and J.D. Martinez, who fell victim to the same skewed strike zone in the sixth.

According to Close Call Sports, Everitt is now tied with umpire Dale Scott for issuing the most ejections in 2016, with six.

***

Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez have identical 3.14 ERAs, and yet in many ways are having wildly different seasons. There was a time when, used in conjunction, those names would foretell the kind of pitching duel that made you cancel your Uber to a Friday night soirée and order a pizza to devour in front of the TV over 2.5 hours of no-hit ball, but, alas, that no longer appears to be the case.

With little over a month left to go in the regular season, both pitchers are posting their worst career numbers to date, although comparing the two is like comparing that friend who’s worried about his A- on the chemistry midterm with the friend who’s worried about almost flunking out of chemistry altogether. Sale sports a 2.99 DRA and 5.0 WARP on the year, while Hernandez is clinging to a 3.66 DRA and 2.4 WARP.

On Friday night, however, Felix looked like the kind of pitcher who deserved a designated area of the ballpark chanting his name and sharing a communal turkey leg, chemistry grades be damned. Sale busted out a 14-strikeout complete game against the Mariners,

and Hernandez turned in 7 ⅓ innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball to snap the M’s three-game skid… but not before Todd Frazier reminded Safeco Field why he is a bona fide alumnus of the Home Run Derby:

Defensive Play of the Weekend
This isn’t the kind of play you’d expect a 37-year-old with a 1.7 FRAA to make, but here we are.

What to Watch on Monday
The best remedy for a pitcher who just expended 103 pitches in five innings? Probably not a trip to Coors Field, which is what Kenta Maeda will get on Monday when the Dodgers open a three-game series against the Rockies. Luckily for the Dodgers and their two-game division lead, Maeda has pitched to surprising success in Colorado, with two walks, one home run, 22 strikeouts, and a 1.48 ERA in 18 ⅔ innings pitched in 2016.

If this is the Kenta Maeda that shows up on Monday night,

the Dodgers should be just fine (8:40 ET).

On the East Coast, only two things block the Pirates from their rightful claim to a wild card spot: Jake Arrieta and his 3.60 DRA. The Pirates tore through the weekend with a four-game sweep in Milwaukee, outscoring the Brewers 20-12 behind Jordy Mercer’s grand slam, a nine-run outpouring on Saturday, and solid outings from Chad Kuhl and Ivan Nova. With Gerrit Cole scratched from his start after experiencing some elbow discomfort, the Pirates will send Steven Brault to the hill against the Cubs’ ace and hope that Arrieta looks more like the six-run pitcher they saw in Pittsburgh last month instead of the two-hitter hurler that took down the Padres last week (8:05 ET).

Ashley Varela is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ashley's other articles. You can contact Ashley by clicking here

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