Aaron Sanchez's return has silver lining despite ugly line

In his first major-league start in 65 days, it would be hard to describe Aaron Sanchez’s outing Saturday as a success.

His line was undoubtedly an ugly one, as he couldn’t escape the fifth inning and gave up six runs on 10 hits with two walks and two strikeouts over four. Those numbers are tough to sugarcoat.

However, the success of Sanchez’s return was never going to be judged by results alone. How his stuff looked, where his command was at, and what kind of workload he was able to take on were always going to be more important.

Aaron Sanchez’s return to action on Saturday was a mixed bag, to say the least. (Jon Blacker/CP)

In terms of stuff, Sanchez consistently worked around 94 mph, topping out at 96. Although the right-hander probably has a little more juice in the tank, that’s approximately where he’s lived most of the season. Both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs were hit around a bit, neither looked particularly off.

Sanchez’s secondary offerings were his best pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies. Six of his seven swinging strikes came on his changeup and curveball and the Phillies managed an average exit velocity under 80 mph against both.

Of particular interest was his curveball, which tends to serve as a barometer for how his finger is faring. He threw the pitch 13 times and got both of strikeouts on it, punching out Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro:

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

He also induced some weak contact on it, like the one-hopper he used to escape the third inning off the bat of Carlos Santana.

Via MLB.tv

In terms of command, Sanchez was clearly far from perfect but he wasn’t exactly scattershot either. On his secondary pitches, he lost a couple but generally refrained from committing the cardinal sin of hanging them over the plate.

Via Baseball Savant

On his fastballs, once again he was far from Greg Maddux, but he wasn’t a disaster. Against both right-handers and left-handers he seemed to have and execute a plan – generally hugging the top of the zone to the former and going down-and-away to the latter.

Vs. Righties

Via Baseball Savant

Vs. Lefties

Via Baseball Savant

Once again, these images are remarkable, and there certainly some misses. But Sanchez isn’t a top-flight command guy at the best of times, and anything better than “utterly awful” is fine at this point.

The thing the Blue Jays were undoubtedly looking for from Sanchez was his ability to carry a normal workload. He didn’t quite succeed on this count, going just four innings, but his 86 pitches were pretty close to what you’d want to see from him.

Ultimately, it’s hard to paint a rough day from Sanchez too positively, but the Blue Jays are at a point in the season where results aren’t really what matters. It’s too late for Sanchez to have the 2018 he would have wanted, but in his remaining outings, he can salvage some outings to build on. Even though Saturday wasn’t pretty, it does qualify – if only barely.

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