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The Yankees already miss Gary Sanchez behind the plate

Despite all the defensive criticisms, Sanchez and his elite arm have left a void behind the dish.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s been just over 10 days since Gary Sanchez was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a Grade 1 strain of his right groin, but the Yankees still expect to be without their starting catcher for another couple weeks. He likely won’t return until after the All-Star break. Given his extended slump at the plate this season, and the constant defensive criticisms hurled his way, many saw the injury as a way for Sanchez to hit the reset button. This would give him the chance to take the recovery time to make adjustments and return to the Yankees as the elite player that he has shown the potential to be.

Turns out, it’s been the Yankees who have had to adjust to life without their starting catcher, especially behind the plate. Despite the disdain shown towards Sanchez when it comes to his ability to block pitches in the dirt, or the “out of shape” claims that have gained momentum since last season, Sanchez’s ability to keep runners in check with his elite arm is sorely missed by the Yankees right now. Opposing teams are starting to run wild against Sanchez’s replacements.

Sanchez has been in the top ten in baseball in pop time over the past two seasons (per Statcast), so it’s no surprise that the Yankees would suffer without him. However, the immediate and glaring evidence of his absence is concerning. Opposing runners are well aware of the throwing downgrade from behind the plate, and are taking advantage of every opportunity. During the Yanks’ series win against the Red Sox last weekend, Boston swiped five bags over the three games, even with shutdown performances from CC Sabathia and Luis Severino to cut down the number of baserunners. The first four runners of the series took advantage of Austin Romine (including a steal of third base), while Andrew Benintendi stole his third base of the series in the finale against Kyle Higashioka. As teams start to realize the Yankees’ new deficiency behind the plate, they will begin to run even more, which will likely cause the Yanks to run and check on the progress of Sanchez’s health.

It’s no secret that Sanchez has some work to do as a defensive catcher. His blocking needs work, and it would benefit him to start removing his mask on potential plays at the plate in order to see the field and the ball better. Still, he has a cannon for an arm and his framing numbers are also respectable. Romine (who is trying to shake off a tight hamstring) may be the better blocker, but his arm and bat are nowhere near Sanchez. For what it’s worth, Romine is just 1-for-14 since Sanchez hit the DL. The early numbers on Higashioka show that his defense behind the plate is worse than Sanchez, though the Yankees would sacrifice that if every hit off Higashioka’s bat continues to be a home run.

Romine and Higashioka are backups for a reason. As Sanchez continues to heal, the Yankees will have to hope that their backups can find some efficiency against baserunners to cut down on runners in scoring position, or the hole that Sanchez has left behind will continue to grow.