Take a close look at the picture featured at the top of this column. It is there for a specific reason. To capture the image I paused the screen on my tv while watching game 2 of the Yankees / Red Sox series (6/1/19). When you look closely at the frozen image you can see the strike-zone box. The off-speed pitch that Gary Sanchez hit for a 2R HR that broke a 3-3 tie and proved to be the game winner, was an off-speed 84 mph breaking-ball that was NOT EVEN A STRIKE. It was outside and off the plate, yet Sanchez hit it out. Gary stayed back on the pitch by NJ native Rick Porcello and let the pitch travel . Gary still had enough strength and talent to stay inside the baseball and drive it to the opposite field (almost one-handed) over the the Right-field fence and into the Yankee bullpen. That “Up-the-Middle”/ “Hit-to-all-Fields” approach is Gary Sanchez at his best.
Why am I making such a big deal about such a minor detail? Because it isn’t a minor detail .. in my opinion, the “right approach” is the key to the success / failure of Gary Sanchez offensively. What do I mean by that ? Simple – when Gary is thinking “oppo” he is an unstoppable force. He is ‘The Kraken”, but when he is top-hand dominant, TRYING to hit HRs , trying to pull the ball on every pitch thrown to him, regardless of location .. he becomes undisciplined, unproductive, and unfocused. To make it worse, the undisciplined , unfocused approach spills over to his defensive play. In 2016 Gary exploded on the scene and in the last 1/3 of the season put up huge power numbers, but I recall warning fans that he hit .380 in August and only .220 in Sept. He finished runner up in ROY voting, In 2017 he was streaky, both at the bat & behind the plate. Joe Girardi tried to discipline Sanchez defensively and it probably cost him his job as manager. 2018 was a down year for Gary mainly because he got off to a slow start and got into the bad habits of being pull-happy and expanding the strike zone on himself. Again, when going right, he is an unstoppable force, an MVP talent.
THAT is how important the right approach is to Gary Sanchez.
Let me finish by saying that this Up-the-Middle , don’t try to do TOO much, put the bat on the ball approach, is not only key to Gary Sanchez, but this same approach is also key to the success of the entire line-up… and the success / failure of the team , especially in the post-season from an offensive perspective. I think back to the column I wrote on Oct. 19th last year after the Yanks lost game 4 & the series to the Red Sox. The right approach was lacking, and the unfortunately so were the results, as the season ended in bitter defeat. The 2018 Yankees set an all time MLB Home Run record with 267 team long balls, but the only thing that really mattered was .. the hated Red Sox won the WS . Hopefully the 2019 Yankees can keep the right approach going all the way through Oct. as the Red Sox did last year.