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Why the Yankees must be encouraged by Gary Sanchez

His return has been positive for the Yankees

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Yankees are expected to receive several impact players as the postseason approaches. Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton and more will be returning, and the team will have a close eye on their production, analyzing their performances compared to what’s expected of them. One player they can check off the list is Gary Sanchez, who recently returned and is looking as promising as he did earlier this season.

When Sanchez landed on the injured list, he carried a slump that saw him produce a -2 wRC+ through 93 plate appearances. Fortunately for the Bombers, it appears that Sanchez’s slump evaporated during his rehab.

Last week I broke down Gary Sanchez’s first four months of production to uncover what was the difference between a hitter on his way to 60 home runs, versus one with a -2 wRC+ in July. Overall, hurlers started to pitch Sanchez outside of the zone with greater frequency, and he continued to expand outside of the zone chasing those pitches. The more Sanchez chased, the fewer strikes he saw. It was a vicious cycle that resulted in him getting no pitches to hit.

Therefore, when Sanchez returned from the injured list it made sense to look for two things: his chase rate outside of the zone and his power. So far the numbers have been encouraging. Sanchez is not only chasing fewer pitches, but he has been swinging at pitches in the zone more frequently as well. It’s not that pitchers are throwing him more strikes either—he is still receiving a low 37%— nonetheless it’s a slight improvement over the 30% during his slump.

Secondly, the power over his last 29 plate appearances has been present as well. Since returning Sanchez has tallied eights hits, three for home runs, and one for a double. What’s equally important is how Sanchez lowered his strikeout rate 10% compared to his slump.

We know the sample size since his return isn’t large, but it’s difficult not to get excited understanding what Sanchez is capable of and how much he can offer. There is a reason pitchers are avoiding Sanchez, and it’s because there simply just aren’t too many ways to get him out. Sanchez is essentially getting himself out, something that sluggers with better plate discipline like Aaron Judge and Luke Voit have been able to prevent. That’s why they find themselves ahead of Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup; they can create more walks.

We don’t know if Sanchez is once again going to start hitting home runs at an epic rate, but what we do know is he had a good start so far. Hopefully he catches his stride down the stretch.