Gary Sanchez has become the most popular whipping boy amongst New York Yankees fans. His lackluster offensive capabilities in the 2019 postseason campaign brought newfound vigor to Yankees fans calling for his benching. What is utterly perplexing is Sanchez is currently on pace to match most of the career statistics Mike Piazza put up. And Piazza is a Hall of Fame catcher.
Let’s start with Sanchez’s biggest bugaboo, his defense.
Sanchez made vast improvements to his defense last year, something overlooked by many. After leading catchers the past two seasons in passed balls (16 and 18 for 2017 and 2018), Sanchez recorded a mere seven passed balls all of last season. That puts his career total for passed balls at 47. Mike Piazza, through his first four full seasons, had 45 passed balls. Sanchez has thrown out 33% of all base stealers so far. Piazza’s caught stealing percentage through his first four full seasons averaged out to 25.75%, and his CAREER caught stealing percentage is 23%. Pizza committed 39 errors in his first four full seasons, Sanchez has committed 35. At this point in Sanchez’s career, he’s a better defensive catcher than Mike Piazza ever was.
Can the New York Yankees expect Sanchez to improve offensively?
Offensively, I don’t think Sanchez will be able to match Piazza for batting average. Piazza has a career .308 batting average, averaging .320 his first four full seasons. Sanchez is sitting at .246. But Sanchez is on pace with Piazza’s career slugging, and two more seasons like 2019 to catch up to Piazza’s OPS and on-base percentage. Piazza has hit only 14 more home runs than Sanchez at this point in their careers, averaged the same amount of walks as Sanchez, and Piazza had a career war of 22.3 to Sanchez’s 11.3. Piazza’s career WAR is 59.6. So it’s not out of the question to see Sanchez catch up, if not, match Piazza by the end of his career.
Gary Sanchez is a future Hall of Famer both at bat and defensively. Comparing him to other Yankees catchers, he currently matches Yogi Berra in fielding percentage, is on pace to hit more home runs, and has a better slugging percentage and OPS for their ENTIRE careers. Sanchez has thrown out more base stealers than Jorge Posada, a better WAR than Jorge through their first four full seasons as catchers, better slugging and OPS, he can catch Jorge in career batting average, and is on pace to pass Jorge in home runs and RBI’s.
Why Yankees fans love to rip him, I’ll never know. But, mathematically speaking, Sanchez is currently on pace to match Yogi Berra and Thurmond Munson as one of the greatest Yankees catchers of all time.