New York Yankees

When Will The Kraken Awaken: Gary Sanchez’ Struggles for the New York Yankees

In October of 2016, after 20 homers as a rookie, Gary Sanchez earned a nickname from New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman:

“…the Kraken, aka the sea monster from 1981 blockbuster movie “Clash of the Titans.” Said Cashman, “I even called him the Kraken last year … ‘We’re going to unleash the Kraken.'”

In the midst of a 4-53 slump over his last 15 games in 2018 and hitting .190 on the season,  Yankee fans would be happy if Sanchez would just unleash already and return to form as the explosive slugger they have come to love.

While Sanchez has hit 12 home runs with 35 RBIs in 2018 to date—to the 11 home runs and 29 RBIs he had hit by this date in ’17—his overall numbers by comparison this season are numbingly disappointing. In 2017 by June 14, Sanchez was hitting .282/.363/.542.  At this time on June 14 in 2018, he is hitting .190/.291/.430.

Speculation runs rife with explanations for Sanchez’ poor performance, including not only injury, but also the speculation that his difficulties on defense this season are serving as a distraction to his offensive production.

But what of Sanchez’ defensive struggles this season?

Randy Miller of NJ.com writes that despite the Yankees belief that Sanchez’s defensive play has improved drastically:

“His 16 passed balls last season led the AL and tied for the most in the majors, and his nine so far this season are the most in baseball.

Actually, Sanchez has been worse statistically in 2018, as he’s had one passed ball for every 42 innings he’s caught compared to one in 55 last year.”

While Sanchez has the best throwing arm of any catcher in Major League Baseball, his numbers throwing out base stealers in ’18 also lag behind his 2017 numbers. Miller states that:

“Surprisingly, opponents have 19 stolen bases in 23 attempts with Sanchez catching for an 82.6 percent success rate that is way up from 61.7 percent (37 for 60) in 2017 and 59.4 percent (19 for 32) in 2015.”

Both on offense and on defense, Sanchez has disappointed in 2018. Yankees manager Aaron Boone benched Sanchez for two games this week in an effort to help the struggling catcher clear his head.

Sanchez, who’s handling and performance were issues in the Joe Girardi firing, once again finds himself at the center of a storm.  Is it a tempest in a teacup? Will he once again emerge as The Kraken, to slug his way back into form? Or is the Sanchez problem a real storm about to overshadow his playing time and his contributions to this team?