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Should the Yankees start Gary Sanchez at all behind the plate in Wild Card Series vs. Indians? Numbers say no | amNewYork

Should the Yankees start Gary Sanchez at all behind the plate in Wild Card Series vs. Indians? Numbers say no

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone made the call entering his team’s AL Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians that backup catcher Kyle Higashioka would get the start in Game 1 with Gerrit Cole on the mound. 

Not exactly shocking news given Sanchez’s struggles both at the dish and behind it in 2020. His defense has always been suspect and so has his ability to call a game, but his offense has made him a liability despite his power, slashing .147/.253/.365 this season.

The split in Cole’s numbers when Higashioka catches him compared to Sanchez made Boone’s Game 1 decision a no-brainer:

Gerrit Cole numbers with Gary Sanchez catching

  • Innings pitched: 46
  • ERA: 3.91
  • WHIP: 1.1087
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 11.7
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 2.3
  •  

Gerrit Cole with Kyle Higashioka catching

  • Innings pitched: 27
  • ERA: 1.00
  • WHIP: 0.7037
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 11.3
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 0.7

But there can be a case made that Sanchez shouldn’t put on his catcher’s gear at all during the Wild Card Series against the Indians.

The Yankees’ Game 2 projected starter, Masahiro Tanaka, has fared better with both of the team’s backup catchers — Higashioka and Erik Kratz — than with Sanchez:

Masahiro Tanaka with Gary Sanchez catching

  • Innings pitched: 31.2
  • ERA: 4.33
  • WHIP: 1.3462
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 8.1
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 2
  •  

Masahiro Tanaka with Erik Kratz catching

  • Innings pitched: 10.1
  • ERA: 1.78
  • WHIP: 0.9901
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 8.0
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 0.9

 

Masahiro Tanaka with Kyle Higashioka catching

  • Innings pitched: 6
  • ERA: 3.00
  • WHIP: 0.6667
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 10.5
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 1.5

Tanaka is one of the better postseason pitchers of his generation, sporting a 1.76 ERA over eight career starts with a minuscule WHIP of 0.783. 

Veteran JA Happ hasn’t had the same kind of postseason success compared to Tanaka — or even come close to it — sporting a 5.04 ERA in 14 career appearances. But if he were to get the ball in a potential winner-take-all Game 3 against Cleveland, Boone’s decision would be a bit tougher on who should catch the southpaw:

JA Happ with Gary Sanchez catching

  • Innings pitched: 21
  • ERA: 4.29
  • WHIP: 1.0476
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 7.7
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 2.1

 

JA Happ with Kyle Higashioka catching

  • Innings pitched: 21
  • ERA: 3.86
  • WHIP: 1.2857
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 8.1
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 1.3

 

JA Happ with Erik Kratz catching

  • Innings pitched: 7.1
  • ERA: 0.00
  • WHIP: 0.4225
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: 6.3
  • HR allowed/9 innings: 0

Still, the numbers suggest it’s a push between Higashioka and Sanchez with Kratz’s limited sample size obviously provide pause on the conversation. 

Against the pitching-heavy Indians, the Yankees need to have their best batteries available and the best defense out there. The numbers seem to speak for themselves at this point.

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