I don’t need to tell any Yankees fan out there that Gary Sanchez is amazing. He tops the Yankees historical catcher leader board in wRC+ (145), albeit with minimum 600 plate appearances. Regardless of the fact there are other legendary catchers, and Jorge Posada is still in the rear-view window, Sanchez is the first catcher to do what he’s done for the Yankees at such a young age.
Even though he missed the first month of the season with a strained bicep, he still has 26 home runs. The interesting fact is that of those 26 home runs, he has hit ten of them in August. August is a pretty special month for the young slugger. Last year when he made his historic debut, Sanchez had one of the great months in memory: he hit .389/.458/.832 (240 wRC+) with 11 home runs and 21 RBI in 80 plate appearances.
Fast forward to now, and we’re back in another hot August. As of yesterday his August slash line is .304/.375/.739 (183 wRC+) with nine home runs (now ten) and 18 RBI in, again, exactly 80 plate appearances.
I find this absolutely fascinating. It’s completely against the grain of sabermetrics to say that a certain month or condition would even matter, but there are definitely some players who believe it. Tim Beckham is having a similar hot stretch, which some credit to him playing outside instead of a dome. Who knows, baseball players are weird like that.
The fact is that for some reason, August is the month for Sanchez. It could be the weather, or maybe that’s just when he really starts seeing pitchers well and getting his swing together... I’m not sure there’s going to be a good explanation. For all we know, he slumps hard next August. It’s baseball. If you compare the two streaks, you’ll actually see some concrete differences, and the possibility that this August is even better.
One thing to note is that in August of last year, it was clear based on the numbers that it was an unsustainable pace. He had a .413 BABIP, for one; his career BABIP is just .308. This August, his BABIP is... .300. He’s also, somehow, striking out more in 2017, at a clip of 27.5% versus just 19.6% last year.
What’s also incredibly interesting is that the plate discipline numbers are extremely consistent. Of course it’s well known that these numbers usually “stabilize” pretty quickly, but that’s a loaded term; it doesn’t mean it will be the same in perpetuity. This does mean that August of 2016 was no fluke, because here is last year...
...and here is this year:
The only thing that has changed more than two percentage points is first pitch strike percentage, which just means that a well-respected hitter isn’t getting first pitch strikes as often—that is no surprise. Other than that, the hot Gary Sanchez of last year is the hot Gary Sanchez of this year. They are one in the same. People kind of forgot about him when Aaron Judge had his own historic half, but it’s important to remember that Sanchez, too, is a star, and this won’t be the last hot month we see. There are more August’s to come.