Each week, good or bad, we’ll look back at the biggest theme of the week that was for the Detroit Tigers.
After one shaky start on Saturday afternoon, many in Tigers’ nation were ready to declare the Anibal Sanchez trade a bust. As with any midseason acquisition, though, patience remains the word, especially where pitchers are considered.
Discount it all you want, but there’s a definite adjustment period for any player entering a new club. In the case of the pitcher, this is especially true. Not only do they have to learn a new team system, they must adapt to a new catcher, pitching coach and defense. For Sanchez, the turnaround is tenfold. He’s also learning new batters in the American League. In situations like that, it’s unfair to expect perfection right out of the chute even if it’s Nolan Ryan you’re acquiring.
Detroit has seen this exact script before, and I’m not referencing Jarrod Washburn. From the get go, Washburn looked uncomfortable and didn’t seem to fit in with the Tigers. Most of the 2009 season, he looked like a flash in the pan and the product of a vast pitchers park anyway. He had never featured such low ERA numbers in his career, so the writing was essentially on the wall There was no middle ground. Either Washburn was going to boom or bust, and his bust potential was sky high.
Instead, this situation more closely resembles Doug Fister a year ago. Before Fister became the pitcher most people remember him as (he of the second lowest ERA the second half of last season) he was shelled in Baltimore during an August start most people choose to forget. That day, Fister gave up eight runs (six of which were earned) on the way to an ugly 8-5 loss. After Fister only went two innings in previous defeat to Cleveland where the offense didn’t help either, fans were starting to panic. Little could everyone imagine then that those would be the last two times Fister would taste defeat during the 2011 regular season. He got comfortable, steadied and went an impressive 5-0 in September with a miniscule 0.53 ERA.
Sanchez still has plenty of time to adjust. Fister was more of an unknown product considering his ballpark and style, and he turned out just fine. There’s no questioning Sanchez’s arm or talent. Watching him in the first three innings showed he knows what he’s doing. Good hitters made better adjustments, so the ball is now in Sanchez’s court. He must make his own alterations, and work with Gerald Laird, Alex Avila and Jeff Jones to form a better plan of attack next time. It wouldn’t hurt if the Tigers’ offense could score him some early icebreaking runs, either. A quick lead can work wonders for a pitcher, especially one contending with a new environment.
The real story will be what happens in Sanchez’s next two starts. He’s slated to pitch against Cleveland on Friday night, and should see a start against the Yankees the week after that. Should he put together two good performances there and get into a groove, suddenly all the panic will dissipate a bit.
Baseball is a long grind with several ups and downs for every player, especially those who pitch every fifth day. If Sanchez struggles for the entire month of August, then we’ll compare him with Washburn instead of Fister. Until that happens dramatically though, patience is a virtue with this deal.
Our feedback of the week relates to the Tigers’ big trade, and revolves around the issue of Anibal Sanchez perhaps sticking around for more than one year. Much of that will be decided by how well he performs. One reader provided an interesting take on this very issue.
Gary VanDecar: Sure hope so. He has the talent to be another Doug Fister in the right situation. I cant believe that DD would give up Turner if he didn’t feel that he couldn’t resign Sanchez especially after last season when he said that Turner was untradeable.
I have to agree with Gary. Giving up Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly to solve the second base situation with an average player like Omar Infante would be a backward move. There has to be an ulterior motive to acquiring Sanchez, a power arm which Dombrowski always seems to covet. I have trouble believing that Sanchez is a true rental at this point as many have claimed, and I believe the plan is to re-sign him provided he performs admirably during this two month job interview.