Talk about baptism by fire – Aaron Sanchez will face the first true test of his 2016 season against the New York Yankees this evening. Not that starting against the Tampa Bay Rays was a cakewalk last week, but the Yankees possess a great deal of Sanchez’ kryptonite: left-handers.
The Bronx bombers have the potential to parade a total of eight lefties against Aaron Sanchez this evening. That many southpaws in one lineup are difficult of enough, but traditionally speaking, Aaron Sanchez has struggled against lefties.
Over the course of his Major League career, left-handers have hit .251/.353/.436 off Sanchez, whereas he’s limited right-handers to a slash line of .154/.223/.183.
Although Sanchez was stellar out of the bullpen the past two seasons for the Blue Jays, one of his main weaknesses as a reliever was his inability to put away left-handers. That also crept up somewhat during his string of starts to begin the season last year.
Pitching out of the bullpen in late relief, John Gibbons was occasionally able to protect Aaron Sanchez from tough lefties. But as a starter, Sanchez has nowhere to hide … especially against the parade of left-handed hitters.
Many believe that Sanchez’ secondary pitches will be the key to his continued success as a starter, but I wonder if it might actually be the ability (or inability) to even out his splits against left-handers and right-handers.
And it’s not as though the Yankees are the only team in the American League with the ability to stack their lineup against starters like Aaron Sanchez. Many of the teams within the American League East have plenty of left-handed formidable foes … so if Sanchez is going to enjoy sustained success of any kind, it’s going to require getting out all those tough lefties on divisional rival’s teams.
Even in the playoffs last year, Aaron Sanchez wasn’t exactly dominant against hitters on the opposite side of the plate; I specifically recall a somewhat nervous eighth inning in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers.
Aaron Sanchez put Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland on base and had the tying run at the plate in the form of another lefty: Josh Hamilton. John Gibbons had to call on Roberto Osuna to get the five-out save, and thus the 6-3 score felt much closer than it needed to be.
I also remember Sanchez’ outing from late August against the Yankees when he gave up a pinch hit home run to none other than Carlos Beltran (a lefty/switch-hitter nonetheless!) It may be a bit of confirmation bias, but when lefties hit Sanchez … they seem to tag him hard.
Traditionally, Sanchez has struggled against lefties in the minor leagues as well, so this is hardly a new concern for him. But this is a flaw which can be very easily exposed by a team like that Yankees which can unleash over three-quarters of their lineup from the left side of the plate.
Stoeten had a good piece about this very subject back in Spring Training, but Aaron Sanchez has yet to face any real legit left-handed batters this year … and that includes all his Spring Training outings.
If Joe Girardi really wants to stack the deck, he could produce a lineup of eight lefties (if he bats somebody like Aaron Hicks at DH instead of Alex Rodriguez). Girardi could even go with nine lefties if he opts to use Dustin Ackley at second base over Starlin Castro.
At least the Blue Jays can take solace in the fact that this test is being presented early in the season for Aaron Sanchez. Because you’d hate to see Sanchez cruise through the first two or three months of the season and then have to face a lineup like this.