In various baseball circles we hear a lot about the “unique advantage” few teams in Major League Baseball possess. The first that comes to mind is the Phillies’ situation with JT Realmuto. Then you have the Royals and Salvador Perez. The Cardinals and Yadier Molina.
And somewhere near the top is the New York Yankees-Gary Sánchez pairing. Since 2016, this team was supposed to have the unique advantage with the slugger’s combination of power and arm strength. Who was going to stop El Gary?
Unfortunately, Sánchez hasn’t truly panned out from 2018 until now. He had an injury-shortened (and awful) 2018; another injury-shortened and wildly inconsistent 2019; arguably the most dreadful 2020 campaign of anyone out there; and a totally “fine” 2021.
He’s now in his final season of club control. The years have passed. The Yankees never saw this project truly come to fruition. Yet, there are still fans talking about Sánchez’s one-of-a-kind value. Where is it?
See, there’s a difference between outright disliking Sánchez because of your personal biases and honestly assessing his play. Nobody roots against the man (actually some might, but they still want him to be better). When he’s on his game, the Yankees are a behemoth, and fans are happier.
But we need to start living in reality. Because Sánchez’s redundant, inconsistent bat just isn’t enough to make up for his defense, which certainly hasn’t taken the necessary strides over the last six years.
Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez is really not that great of a defender.
There’s likely a reason Gerrit Cole doesn’t want Sánchez to catch him every fifth day. Same went for Corey Kluber’s one year in the Bronx. That compilation above reveals a lot, whether it’s Sánchez’s inability to frame at a competent level, or the possibility he’s not on the same page with the pitcher. Both are bad.
Sánchez was good for -10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2021, bringing the total for his career to -9. There were 60 total wild pitches and 50 stolen bases under his watch. In terms of framing, Sánchez had a -6 Runs From Extra Strikes in 2021 and, just as discouraging, has a -10 Framing Runs (FRM) for his career. For reference, Molina has 145.2 for his career. Not a fair comparison, but that’s just for perspective so you can realize the difference.
This isn’t nitpicking, either. Framing is important. It helps the umpires call consistent games. Hell, it could even trick them to your advantage! And it also keeps batters on their heels. Sánchez, at best, just by looking at these stats, is well below average, and the eye test makes the assessment even worse.
There’s no doubting the counter argument that very few catchers can hit 20-plus home runs. But we certainly know many can bat .230! Or can’t stay on the field for a large majority of the season. Or can’t get the job done in clutch situations as often as you’d hope. Is this the trade-off for 20 or more home runs per season now? Bad defense, lackluster situational hitting, and tons of strikeouts?
On a positive note, here’s to seeing an improvement in this department for El Gary in 2022. We all need it.