Pitcher Anibal Sanchez set a Detroit Tigers franchise record on April 26 by throwing 17 strikeouts in a win against the Atlanta Braves. In setting the record for most strikeouts in a game by a Tiger, Sanchez proved how valuable he can be to the Tigers this season.
When the Tigers re-signed Sanchez this past offseason to a five-year $80 million deal, most fans assumed that Sanchez would be the No. 4 pitcher in the starting rotation and that management overpaid.
Even though Sanchez is No. 4 in the Tigers' rotation, he would be the No. 1 pitcher for several teams.
Sanchez, 29, has great talent and as he has matured, he has learned not just to throw, but to pitch as well. That is why the Tigers will arguably be getting Sanchez's best years of his career over the life of this contract.
Generally, most people assume that pitchers struggle when they switch leagues from the NL to the AL. Sanchez, who was traded to the Tigers from the Miami Marlins in July 2012, has pitched brilliantly since switching leagues.
In the coming days, Sanchez should have many articles written about his brilliant strikeout performance in the 10-0 win against the Braves. However, the fact of the matter is that Sanchez has been excelling long before this performance.
In 2012, Sanchez was only 4-6 in the regular season with a 3.74 ERA, but he lowered his walks per nine innings to 1.8 and pitched better than his statistics.
The 2012 postseason is where Sanchez really put it all together by having a 1.75 ERA in 20.1 innings and having a WHIP of 0.984. His performance helped the Tigers make the World Series.
While Sanchez’s 2012 postseason was great, he has even raised the bar with his pitching this season. In 33.2 innings pitched, Sanchez has a 3-1 record to go along with a 1.34 ERA. He also has not allowed a home run while holding batters to a .213 batting average.
The Tigers have been playing .500 baseball and Sanchez took it upon himself to do what No. 1 starters do and win a game against the Braves that the Tigers needed.
It is still early in the season, but Sanchez has proven himself to be an important member of the rotation regardless of where he pitches. Seventeen strikeouts are impressive, but all of Sanchez's starts in 2013 may hint at greater things to come.
*All statistics are as of April 26
**All statistics are from baseball-reference.com and espn.com