Where has El Kraken gone?

If Sunday’s disappearing act with the media was any indication, Gary Sanchez is tired of talking about his struggles at the plate. The Yankees catcher is now hitting a miniscule .190 and has only collected a hit in four of his last 15 games (4-53). While all great hitters go through dry spells and bouts with slumps, it has been tough to watch Gary’s at-bats these past couple weeks. He has looked both anxious and lost at times at the plate. Much of the anxiousness could be chalked up to breaking out of his funk, but Sanchez is too good of a hitter to look lost at-bat.

Photo Credit :  Paul Bereswell

Going into the season, Sanchez was expected to be scrutinized for his defense, not his bat. His defense was seen as the lone weak-spot of his game, and Gary worked hard in the offseason to correct some of his mechanics and overall skills behind the plate.  While there is still a slight buzz about said defense (as likely will be for his tenure in the MLB), it has been background noise to the staggering slump he has been in. As mentioned before, he just doesn’t seem to be himself when he steps in the box.

Digging into the stats, the numbers show some things of concern for the Yankees backstop. He is not hitting the ball like he has for the past two seasons, with his hard contact rate down dramatically over this last stretch. He typically has hovered around the 45% mark for hard hit balls according to FanGraphs, but has dipped down into the upper 30%. These percentages also seem to line up with the eye test as well, Gary seems to be rolling over and generating soft grounders to either third or short. Another thing noticeable in the eye test of Sanchez is that when he is not generating soft grounders, he is getting way under the ball and popping up in the infield. While its easy at the major league level to “just miss” or get under a ball, the pitches that he is popping up are pitches that he would crush given his history. The final noticeable thing about Gary is that he seems to have changed up his batting stance some to be a little lower, more bat movement/wiggle on his shoulder and is crowding the plate more. While it may not be noticeable to everyone, in a comparison to years prior, Gary stood up a bit straighter, more relaxed with the bat head and was off the plate a bit. What this seems to have translated to is him getting under the ball more (hence the pop-ups to the infield) and his swing looking more off balanced at times (too many moving parts perhaps).

Photo Credit : Associated Press

This is the first major slump that the young slugger has gone through, so it has been nice to see the bode of confidence from Aaron Boone. He knows the caliber of talent that he has in Sanchez and is by no means going to give up on him. CC Sabathia himself has even gone on the record to say that Gary is “the Yankees most complete hitter”, so the talent has clearly been on display. While there may be some pressure from the fans to see results, and the media will be present with questions about the slumping slugger, the Yankees need to be patient and ride it out. If Sanchez is the super star that we know he is, and have seen in the past couple years, he will find a way to work out of it and make everyone forget that he ever was in a slump.

Article By: AJ Welch


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