5 Reasons Anibal Sanchez Will Win the Detroit Tigers the AL Central Title

J Cook@JCookBRCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2012

5 Reasons Anibal Sanchez Will Win the Detroit Tigers the AL Central Title

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    The Tigers are going for it. 

    As Major League Baseball's trade deadline neared Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pulled the trigger and traded Detroit's most coveted prospect, pitcher Jacob Turner, to the Miami Marlins for pitcher Anibal Sanchez and former Tiger and second baseman Omar Infante. Also sent to Miami in the trade were Tigers' prospects Rob Brantly (catcher) and Double-A left-handed pitcher Brian Flynn.

    Detroit has been juggling their fifth spot rotation starter for the better part of the 2012 season and is one of the many reasons they struggled to be better than average through the season's first half.

    With Sanchez now in the mix, they've not only filled an obvious void but did so with an established major-league pitcher that can maximize their opportunity to remain atop the AL Central standings.

    The Tigers made it clear in the off-season that the time to win in Detroit is now when the handed Prince Fielder a monstrous contract in the wake of a season-ending injury to the versatile-hitting Victor Martinez. Owner Mike Ilitch isn't getting any younger and opportunity to see his team hoist a World Series trophy was fleeting until the month of July.

    With the Tigers red-hot in this month team leadership decided to stoke the fire a bit more with the addition of Sanchez and Infante, filling two obvious needs and turning loose a guy that had several opportunities to fill the shoes that Sanchez will now occupy. 

    While the loss of Turner cannot be fully measured at present, the Tigers will have to wait and see how their roll of the dice turns out down the road. With Sanchez, however, they'll experience the overall plus/minus a whole lot sooner.

    Here's five reasons why Sanchez is the clincher for Detroit to take home their second consecutive divisional pennant. 


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    Detroit has suffered through a myriad of fillers this season as injury and lack of performance have bounced several players from opportunity to the fifth spot in their rotation. A lack of consistency in their fifth spot a year ago forced the same scenario and Doug Fister answered the bell for the Tigers, leading them to an AL Central title. 

    A year later Detroit was in the same boat.

    Sanchez has started 32 games each of the last two seasons and is on pace to do the same again in 2012. Much like Fister when he arrived, Sanchez's win/loss record doesn't sparkle because of lack of run support, not ability.

    With an ERA of 3.94 Sanchez has been sharp over his last three starts for the Marlins, lowering his ERA with each game while striking out 18 hitters and walking only two. 

    Sanchez has also pitched six or more innings in eight of his last 10 starts, including four starts of seven or more. 

    His ability to go out every five days and give the Tigers an opportunity to win was exactly what Detroit needed and ultimately has lacked throughout the season. Sanchez will solidify Detroit's starting five as the Tigers make their push for postseason play.

Above Average Stuff

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    Detroit didn't compromise with just anybody to fill its rotation void. No, instead, it opted for a more proven pitcher with a lively arm and a promising outlook that his abilities have yet to peak—hedging its bet that it is a greater possibility with the run support the Tigers can put on the board.

    MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette broke down what Sanchez brings to the table for the Tigers, "he's got above average stuff—plus fastball, plus breaking ball, and a really good change up."

    With three proven pitches Sanchez was a commodity that Detroit pounced on when it was needed most. He'll have plenty of chances to show his worth before the end of the season and Detroit is banking on his arsenal to shore up the few holes they have left to plug before the pennant race hits full speed.

Something to Play for

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    No disrespect to the Marlins but let's face it, Miami wasn't going to make any real noise across the MLB wavelengths this season—or anytime in the near future for that matter. 

    Miami is in the process of resurrecting an organization that hasn't made a whole lot of noise in quite some time.

    Detroit, on the other hand, offers a bevy of celebratory opportunity for Sanchez and that kind of party is much more inviting than cleaning the basement of the NL East.

    For Sanchez the trade to Detroit should be the ultimate shot in the arm and a boost to his inner-arrogance, a telling trait all great players possess. The opportunity to play for a team that is definitively in the hunt and has made every move possible to ensure that it stays so should be a nice pick me up for Sanchez after enduring lackluster run support over the course of his career in Miami.

    Sanchez has something to play for now—championship hardware and gold rings.

Free-Agency Dividends

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    There's no better way to increase your market-value as a pitcher than to help your team win it all.

    Sanchez joins a Tigers organization on the brink of opportunity to do just that and selfishly he could push his name up the free-agency ladder in the process. 

    Personally, Sanchez really has everything to gain with this trade scenario—not withstanding and including the opportunity to play for a winner in Detroit. This isn't to say he wouldn't have pulled attention from suitors in the offseason despite his record and time in Miami, but a strong showing in Motown is much more likely to bring him a high-dollar return come this winter.

    A Doug Fister-esque entrance into the Motor City and a champagne uncorking could ensure Sanchez his highest ceiling in the free-agent market this offseason and a nice addition to his bankroll to boot. 

    It might also give the Tigers a reason to keep him around longer than a few months. 

Pennant Catalyst

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    It isn't often that subtle changes lead to ultimate reward so it stands that the Tigers have much to gain with their near trade-deadline acquisition of Sanchez.

    While the Tigers are back atop the AL Central standings it hasn't been without a dog-fight of a battle the first four months of the season. 

    Stoking an already hot fire isn't a bad thing and the addition of Sanchez to close out their rotation could be the final catalyst in bringing everything together for the Motor City cats.

    Catalyst type players can roll into the downhill ball and help a team gain even greater steam, which is exactly what the Tigers could use to pull away from the rest of the divisional pack as they did last year shortly after Doug Fister's arrival.

    At this point Sanchez could be the difference that will keep Detroit from ever needing to look back.


    Bleacher Report Featured Columnist J. Cook is a member of B/R's MLB Coverage Team and contributes to B/R's MLB content and Detroit Tigers page. He also covers key sport interest stories for all of Detroit's major sports teams.