Since being called up for good in June, Cristopher Sánchez has established himself as a mainstay in the Philadelphia Phillies rotation, earning himself a following of fans in Philadelphia and around baseball.
The 26-year-old lefty can now count Nick Pollack of Pitcher List among his many supporters. The well-respected fantasy baseball analyst examines Sánchez's performance thus far in his most recent weekly "Is It Legit?" article.
While Pollack focuses on Sánchez's usefulness for fantasy purposes, he breaks down the elements of the southpaw's arsenal that have made him successful this season.
If you haven't seen his numbers recently, Sánchez is rocking a 3.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 85 strikeouts through 91 1/3 innings for a 23 percent strikeout rate. Despite six quality starts and some solid five-inning outings in his 17 games, he has a surprisingly bleak 2-5 record.
As Pollack laments, "... with those stats on a team looking playoff-bound, you’d expect a handful more victories."
But alas, such is baseball.
Let's get down to brass tacks and see why Pollack thinks Sánchez is so effective on the mound.
Sánchez's sinker is special
If you've watched Sánchez pitch, you know he doesn't have the raw velocity coveted in baseball these days. However, Pollack points out he's "a CSW% rockstar," with a 31.7 percent CSW%.
If you haven't encountered that acronym before, it stands for Called Strikes + Whiffs and is the brainchild of Pollack himself. If you want to get nerdy, you can read about CSW%'s inception from back in 2019.
Anyway, Sánchez's sinker averages 92 mph, which puts him in the 20th percentile for fastball velocity, according to Statcast. On the surface, that may not seem good, especially for a pitch he uses 46.2 percent of the time. But it's the quality of the offering that's special, not the velocity, as quantified by Pitch Level Value (PLV) (this is really nerdy stuff, if you're interested in that sort of thing).
According to Pollack, Sánchez's sinker has an above-average PLV of 5.15, putting it in the 89th percentile among all sinkers.
"He doesn't get many swinging strikes with the offering, but he sneaks it into the zone for strikes all the time," explains Pollack. "The pitch has an 88th-percentile zone rate and a 90th-percentile called strike rate, and that’s the real value of the pitch for Sánchez. He can toss it for strikes when he needs to."
Sánchez's off-speed offerings keep hitters off-balance
Sánchez's second pitch, his 82 mph changeup, is the swing-and-miss generator. He uses the pitch 32 percent of the time, and it generates a 40.2 percent whiff rate and a 29.5 percent CSW%. With a 5.10 PLV, it's firmly in the 79th percentile of changeups.
Pollack also mentions that the changeup produces "the best batted-ball results of any of his three offerings," and he's not joking, with opposing hitters logging a .153 batting average, a .271 slugging percentage and a .208 wOBA.
Sánchez uses his third pitch, an 83 mph slider, 21.8 percent of the time. Pollack freely admits that the PLV model doesn't love the breaking ball. It has a 5.09 PLV, good for the 34th percentile of sliders. What Pollack does point out, however, is that the Stuff+ model (from Eno Sarris) loves the pitch.
"[The slider] has a 122+ Stuff+ which is the 29th-best among all pitchers with at least 80 innings this year," Pollack says, which helps explain why it has a 29.8 percent CSW% and is in the 87th percentile.
Pollack concludes that Sánchez is legit, at least for fantasy baseball purposes. While he recommends using him as a streaming option for fantasy, the Phillies don't have the luxury of sitting him on the bench just because there's a tough matchup on deck.
Luckily, now that his two starts against the Braves are behind him, Sánchez lines up for a pair of outings against the long-ago eliminated Mets to finish the season. He has proven that he is legit in the big leagues and will play a big role in helping to clinch the first Wild Card.