From June 5th to June 30th last season, Tony Sanchez was 5-for-55 at the plate, which dropped his batting average below the Mendoza line on the year.
This season, he was about on the same pace, as he hit .091 for the month, with a .399 OPS. In fact, Sanchez matched his total from last season with five hits in 55 at bats.
Also similar to last season, Sanchez was hitting the ball well through May. He had a .743 OPS this year, with seven doubles, two triples, and two homers. While Sanchez knows that the month of June was not strong, he credits some to how he has been pitched.
“I am seeing a lot junk and I am getting pitched around a lot,” Sanchez said. “That is part of it and is going to make me a better hitter in the long run.”
Thus far, Sanchez is 4-for-7 in July, and seems to be attacking the ball much better through two games. At this point, he is just pleased to have the month behind him.
While the success was not there in June, it is not due to a lack of effort.
“I am starting to feel bad for [Indianapolis hitting coach] Butch [Wynegar] for the amount of time that I am making him put in the cage with me,” Sanchez said.
Wynegar thinks that some of issues that Sanchez has seen has been due to pressing too much.
“With Tony, you have to understand his personality,” Wynegar said. “The reason that I gravitated to him when I first met him was that he reminded me of myself. He always works and grinds, and gets mad at himself. After a while, it becomes a mental thing and he is trying too hard.”
Due to this, Wynegar said that he is looking to “pull the reigns back” on Sanchez now.
“You don’t have to swing so hard to hit the ball hard,” Wynegar said. “You can be efficient with everything and not try to hit it so hard with your body. He’s made some strides [over the past few games] and it is something that we have to just keep pounding into him. Don’t let that let that intensity and make up become so great that it is detrimental for your hitting.”
With the well noted defensive struggles that Sanchez has seen the past few years, he came to Indianapolis in April with the goal of proving people wrong. Though the numbers – 10% caught stealing and eight errors – don’t completely reflect it, Sanchez has been throwing the ball much better.
While he is not nailing runners at near the same rate as Elias Diaz, with whom he is sharing the catching duties evenly with, Sanchez is not launching near as many errant throws into centerfield and giving extra bases. He is also generally showing a stronger, more accurate arm. However, part of his concerns revolve around the fact that the polished defensive catching prospect Diaz is throwing out 29% of base runners and has not had the same long offensive droughts as Sanchez.
Sanchez is also pleased with how he has been working with the pitching staff, which is not shown in the box score at all. However, he also credits some of this work to his struggles at the plate.
“Coming down here, my main goal was to be as consistent as possible behind the plate and be a leader for the 12 guys that I have on the pitching staff,” Sanchez said. “I have done that and unfortunately, I put my hitting on the back burner. I haven’t focused as much at the plate as I have behind it. That is something that doesn’t happen in the show, but unfortunately it happens down here. That is why I have months like June, which is embarrassing for someone who knows that they can hit.”
Sanchez said that he is pleased that June is over and will just take it one day at a time at this point.
The struggles, combined with the continuing emergence of Diaz behind the plate and with the bat, put Sanchez in the territory where he is close to getting passed. If an injury happened at the next level, it is a toss up at this point which player would get the call. This was not the case at the beginning of the season, and Sanchez may be losing his stranglehold on the role.
Either way, the first goal for the catcher has to be getting himself right at the plate, to make the decision even a competition.