The year was 2018 and we were Ani-ballin! Today’s Braves One Year Wonder, Anibal Sanchez, had a career year with the Atlanta Braves in 2018 before ultimately following the money to Washington.
Braves One Year Wonder: Anibal Sanchez
A reclamation project, Anibal Sanchez signed with the Braves on March 16th, 2018 to a minor league deal worth just $1M and a Spring Training invite where he made the most of his short time and earned himself a spot on the roster. Over the previous 3 years Sanchez had an ERA north of 5 in more than 70 starts. With 60 starts from Dickey, Colon and Garcia gone from the 2017 rotation and only Teheran, Foltynewicz and Newcomb penciled in for 2018, the Braves knew they needed to find a dependable arm and fast.
Entering his age 34 season, it appeared that his best days were behind him. However, as GM Alex Anthopolous knew would happen, he put up a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings. He increased his use of the cutter and his control seemed sharper. In June of 2018 Brian Snitker even said “He knows what he’s doing. He can change speeds and he locates the fastball well.” His 1.08 WHIP was a career best and his 3.1 WAR was his best since 2013. All signs pointed up and Sanchez’s career seemed back on track and heading back towards the days of his 2006 no hitter. He helped the Braves reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and started game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. Unfortunately, the Braves couldn’t pull out a win after Kershaw outdueled Sanchez’s 4.2 innings of 3 run baseball with 8 of his own shutout innings.
Kurt Suzuki was Sanchez’s catcher for 17 of his 24 starts in 2018. Upon further investigation, Sanchez actually pitched slightly better with Tyler Flowers behind the dish. In those 7 starts he held batters to a mere .196 BAA, compared to a .233 BAA when Suzuki behind the plate. His ERA and WHIP was pretty close when throwing to both catchers, so it was likely just a case of being more comfortable pitching to Suzuki and the slight increase in offense (although Suzuki and Flowers were both putrid hitters in 2018).
After the Braves lost the NLDS, Sanchez considered hanging up his cleats. He knew he still had some gas in the tank after that 2018 season, and his desire to play lured him back in. He was on the record stating he would love to return to Atlanta, but sadly, as many one year wonders go, the price got too rich for Anthopolous. Sanchez decided to follow his batterymate Suzuki to Washington on a two-year, $19M deal where he put up another solid campaign and got himself a World Series ring.
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