Anibal Sanchez was the 2013 AL ERA champion, but he was limited to 126 innings in 2014 because of arm troubles. Despite spending some time on the disabled list, Sanchez still pitched to the tune of a 3.43 ERA and 2.71 FIP, but his K/9 dropped all the down to 7.29. The biggest difference between the 2013 ERA champion Sanchez and 2014 Sanchez is that he missed fewer bats this year.
Why Anibal Sanchez will rebound:
In 2014, Anibal Sanchez was still a good pitcher, but his decline in terms of striking out batters affected his fantasy value. Sanchez posted an excellent 9.99 K/9 to go along with his 2.57 ERA in 2013, but the following season saw his strikeout rate plummet all the way to 7.29. There are probably a host of reasons why he became more hittable this past season.
According to PITCHf/x data, it seems like Anibal Sanchez lost maybe one MPH on a few of his pitches. As minuscule as the change sounds, the difference between 92 and 93 MPH can really be everything in terms of recording strikeouts against world class hitters.
Despite marginally slower velocity, Anibal Sanchez induced a little bit weaker contact this season compared to 2013 as batters hit less line drives and more fly balls, but Sanchez’s HR/FB% dropped from 5.8% to 3.1%. While that rate is basically unsustainable, Anibal Sanchez does have the advantage of pitching at Comerica Park for half of his starts and he has good control.
The above average control is something that Anibal Sanchez developed during his prime in the past three or four years. Since 2011, Anibal Sanchez has had a K/BB of 3.16 or better, which is an above average mark for a pitcher. His control partially explains why he gives up fewer long balls than the average pitcher, but a portion of that skill to keep the ball in the park is simply due to randomness.
While the decreased velocity can explain the lower strikeout rate, I think the injuries simply played a factor. I would be a little surprised if Sanchez does not strikeout more hitters next season, since his career K/9 of 7.93 is more than achievable for a pitcher of his skill level.
At the same time, Sanchez will be 31 next season, so you can expect his pitches to eventually slow down over time. Even so, Anibal Sanchez is bound to have a low ERA behind his 2014 FIP of 2.71.
Why Anibal Sanchez may fail:
I really think that Sanchez is a pretty safe bet to succeed in 2015, especially at his current ADP. My biggest concern is that Sanchez may have some injuries again and fail to maintain consistency. Of course, Anibal Sanchez runs the risk of having a second straight year with a mediocre strikeout rate, but I truly believe that Sanchez will both bounce back and excel once he toes the rubber in 2015.