Tuesday, November 22, 2016


(Aug. 25, 2016 - Source: Adam Hunger/Getty Images North America)
As the snow flies here in upstate New York, and baseball awaits its turn back at the forefront of the American sports focus, I found myself looking in awe at the 2016 season Baby Bomber Gary Sanchez offered up.

(Sept. 15, 2016 - Source: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America)
In just 53 games, he thrust himself into the discussions for Rookie of the Year; eventually finishing second to the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer.  Sanchez nearly carried the Yankees into the post-season.

In his first month with the “grown-ups” (August), Sanchez slugged 11 HR and people kept waiting for the drop-off.  Instead, Gary followed that up with 9 more HR in September.  Just as impressive was Sanchez’s handling of the pitching staff behind the plate.  As the last month wore on, it became clear that he was the primary choice at catcher for the team. 

At the age of 23, Sanchez provides a long, bright future for the Yankees at backstop.  It’s obvious the organization has faith in him as they traded away Brian McCann just this past week... read  BYE BYE, McCANN! for more.

I wondered how Sanchez’s rookie campaign compared with some of his predecessors.  After all, the Yankees do have a very distinguished lineage when it comes to the men with the masks. 

To keep things level, I looked at the first season of eligibility for the ROY award for Thurman Munson, Jorge Posada, Sanchez, and the great Yogi Berra.  Here is what I found:

Of the four players, only Munson (for complete transparency, he’s my all-time favorite player) actually won the Rookie of the Year (1970).  He was the first catcher to do so.  Ironically, of the four, he also played the most – 132 games. Yogi was the only other player in the group to play more than half a season.

The statistics I chose to look at are the primary ones I felt best gave us an overview of performance : RBI, Runs, Home Runs, batting average, slugging percentage, On-base percentage, stolen bases, walks, strikeouts, how they hit with Runners in Scoring Position, their fielding percentage, caught stealing percentage and, for the stat-geeks, Wins Against Replacement.

What I found was that Sanchez certainly rates favorably with the others in many categories.  In particular, his batting average, slugging percentage, Home Runs, On-base percentage, caught-stealing percentage and WAR are among the top two in spite of playing in the fewest games.

(Sept. 17, 2016 - Source: Rich Gagnon/Getty Images North America)
The numbers also show that Sanchez is the free-swinger of the group.  He is highest in strikeouts, and is by far the worst among them at the plate with runners occupying prime real estate (look at Munson’s average there...).

Even with those areas where the Baby Bomber needs work, it is quite clear that he does well in representing the Yankee catching legacy.

Going forward, Gary Sanchez is on the way to establishing himself as the face of the franchise.  Given his maturity behind the plate, and prowess while standing at it, he may one day be known as our captain.

For me, Thurman Munson will always be “the guy” as far as Yankee catchers go.  I grew up watching him lead the team to back-to-back titles.  However, I can’t help but get the feeling I may be witnessing the next truly great Yankee catcher.  So many intangibles that Sanchez brings to the table (maturity, durability, intellect) remind me of Munson.  Now, with the path clear for him to be the Bombers’ regular backstop, he is only going to get better.

Hitch your wagons to Sanchez Yankees fans, he’s going to be something special.

--Steve Skinner
BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

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