Why Keeping Gaby Sanchez in the Lineup Could Save Pittsburgh Pirates' Season

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IMay 15, 2014

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 14: Gaby Sanchez #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the second inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 14, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Gaby Sanchez via trade from the Miami Marlins in 2012, they knew they were adding another great bat to the lineup. 

Sanchez played his first full major league season in 2010 with the Marlins, finishing fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

In 391 games played with the Marlins, the first baseman batted .260 with 43 home runs and 184 runs batted in. 

His numbers were down in his first full season with the Pirates, batting .254 with just seven home runs in 136 games played in 2013. 

Sanchez has played in 32 of the Pirates' first 40 games in 2014, but he has only started 14 of them.  While the Pirates have gotten solid production from Ike Davis at first base as well, they have to find a way to keep integrating Sanchez into the lineup. 

Sanchez is off to one of the hottest starts of his career, batting .290 with four home runs in 69 at bats in 2014. 

When he is not in the starting lineup, the Pirates have struggled, going 10-16 this season.  Sanchez has come up big for the Pirates thus far in 2014, with Thursday being the most recent piece of evidence, when he blasted the go-ahead home run in the top of the sixth inning in what eventually turned into a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers

With two outs and runners in scoring position, Sanchez is batting .300 on the season, showing that he is not phased by pressure-packed situations. 

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked about how he decides when Sanchez will start certain games.  

According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hurdle said:

We're kind of old-school here. We'll look at what our eyes tell us and what our gut tells us and sometime the numbers scream at you. Sometimes, you can look at a batting average and it can read .200 and if you dig deeper it's four hard-hit balls and he only got two hits in 10 at-bats.

As of now, their eyes should be telling them to keep Sanchez in the lineup, as he has been one of the most effective batters for Pittsburgh.  Sanchez's .290 average is third best among all Pirates players with a minimum of 50 at-bats in 2014. 

In a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 10, Hurdle called on Sanchez to pinch hit.  The following inning, he was put in right field for the first time in his career. 

If Sanchez can show the ability to play a variety of positions in the field, he could become one of the best utility men in the entire league. 

With a 7-7 record when Sanchez is in the starting lineup in 2014, the Pirates must find a way to keep him in the lineup while he is hot.  With the offense he has proven that he can provide, Sanchez could legitimately help the Pirates get back over .500 and into the playoffs for the second straight season.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and MLB.com.