On the surface, there is nothing overly impressive about what Anibal Sanchez has accomplished this season. In five starts, he is 1-2 with a 4.06 ERA.
But upon further review, the right-hander actually is pitching the best he has since his rookie season in 2006.
In all five starts this season, he has gone at least six innings. The last time Sanchez, 26, did that was his rookie season, when he did it in 10 consecutive starts from Aug. 4 to Sept. 21. Along the way, Sanchez pitched a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 6 and went 5-2 during the stretch with a 1.83 ERA.
If you read the whole article, and there is no reason you shouldn't, forget the part about wins. Not to pick on Manny, I think he does an excellent job, but wins are one of the stats that the pitcher can't control.
The worst thing that ever happened to Anibal was the no-hitter. Not that a pitcher throwing a no-hitter is a horrible thing, but he was 22 years-old at the time. There is a big correlation between throwing a no-hitter at an early age and arm injuries. The theory goes that the young arm is tired, not fully developed, and trying to pitch in the ninth requires more effort than normal to get the final outs. This leads to over taxing the arm, which is a prescription for injury in the future. Anibal didn't escape that. After throwing the no-hitter he was never quite the same. He had problems with command, arm slot and everything else. He eventually had shoulder surgery in 2007, but shoulder surgery isn't like having Tommy John surgery; it takes longer to regain form, if ever. Most who have it end up being a different style of pitcher.
Anibal is using his fast ball less, his slider more and his usage of his curve has increased--not by a lot, but noticeably.
He is inducing fewer line drives and more ground balls, along with fewer fly balls. So far this season he has had the ability to fool the hitters into swinging at pitches that start in the zone but end up out of it. In other words, he is keeping the ball down, for the most part, and keeping the good wood off the ball by having good movement.
If he continues to improve, and I don't see why he can't, we may have a different Anibal than the 2006 season, but one who is just as effective or maybe more so. Here's hoping.