The Miami Marlins were counting on a trio of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Anibal Sanchez to carry their rotation in 2012 en route to a playoff spot. While Johnson did not live up to expectations and Buehrle was his consistent, if not a little worse, version of himself, Anibal Sanchez played his role about as well as he was expected to play it before the season began.
Sanchez's ERA was once again decently higher than his FIP, and that marks the third straight full season in which this has happened. But in almost all other categories, Sanchez was bound to repeat a performance similar to his 2011 campaign, one in which he pitched 196 1/3 innings and put up at least a 3.5-win season.
Sanchez's home run rates, home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rates, BABIP, and ground ball rates were almost identical, and the difference in ERA and FIP significantly decreases once your correct for the league's slight increase in scoring from 2011 to 2012. His FIP- according to FanGraphs is exactly the same in 2012 as it was in 2011.
Sanchez's strikeout rates went down from last season, but last year had to be considered a bit of a career year for the soon-to-be free agent starter. Sanchez's rates in terms of contact and swinging strikes went right back to around career norms, but the good news is that his career norms were already successful to begin with. The Marlins were still happy to have Sanchez's 21.8 percent strikeout rate, a mark that was the best on the team at the time of his departure.
At the same time, Sanchez continued to pound the strike zone and as a result earned his career-best walk rate with the Fish. Once upon a time, Sanchez lacked a good deal of control and was missing swing-and-miss stuff, back when he was still a rookie in 2006. Now, he not only can get hitters to chase (32 percent swing rate out of the zone) and miss (61.9 percent whiff rate on those pitches), thus adding a little to both his strikeout and walk marks.
Before the season began, we here at Fish Stripes projected a 3.74 ERA and a three-win season from Sanchez for the Marlins this year. He did not stick around with the Fish long enough, but that was not for a lack of performance. Indeed, Sanchez did everything that was expected of him, and had he had a chance to complete the season with the Marlins, it is likely that Sanchez would have met his preseason expectations. As mentioned in the linked preview, he was expected to decline from his career-best strikeout rates, and indeed he did. To compensate, he improved his walk rate, but approach against hitters in terms of pounding the strike zone and getting swings and misses was about the same as it was since 2010. He had a second straight season in which his home run rates were normal rather than abnormally depressed like in 2010, proving that he did not need home run luck to be a successful starter. The Fish got all they wanted from Sanchez, and he played a role in the deal that brought Jacob Turner to the Marlins to hopefully replace Sanchez in the rotation for a long time to come.