Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have slowed considerably following promising starts to the season, and Anibal Sanchez has risen to the top in terms of consistency and pure stuff.
In his last four combined starts, Sanchez has pitched 28 1/3 innings and allowed just 5 earned runs, while allowing no more than six hits in any start and walking no more than two in any start. He also boasts 28 strikeouts over that span.
You'd be shocked to know that Sanchez has one (Singular) victory in that time. A single win.
Between April 21st and June 8th, Sanchez's ERA has taken a nosedive from 3.54 to 2.24.
Take a look at the Tigers in Sanchez's last four outings:
5/23 Start, Home vs. Texas Rangers:
Sanchez- 7 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 5 hits.
Bullpen- 2 innings, 0 ER, 3k's, 0 walks, 2 hits (Alburquerque-Krol)
Sanchez gets his lone win of this stretch in a 7-2 rout, Al-Al/Krol go an inning apiece.
5/28 Start, Road vs. Oakland A's:
Sanchez- 8 1/3 innings, 1 earned runs, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits.
Bullpen- 0.0 innings (No outs recorded) 2 earned runs, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks, 2 hits (Joe Nathan)
The lone run given up by Sanchez was the baserunner inherited by Joe Nathan, who gave up a three-run walk off home run to Josh Donaldson on a hanging slider. Sanchez silenced one of baseball's hottest offensive attacks for 8 innings, giving up a hit after recording an out in the ninth.
6/3 Start, Home vs. Toronto
Sanchez- 7 innings, O earned runs, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 2 hits.
Bullpen- 2 innings, 5 earned runs, 0 strikeouts, 2 walks, 3 hits. (Chamberlain, Nathan, Krol, Alburquerque)
To say that Sanchez was dominant doesn't do him a justice. Two hits to an offense boasting "Joey Bats" and the blazing hot Edwin Encarnacion? I'll take that thank you very much.
Joe Nathan was hilariously bad, walking two, and giving up four of the five earned runs credited to the bullpen. Krol inherited a bases loaded jam from Nathan and gave up a run, and promptly exited stage left. Alburquerque then inherited two of Nathan's runners who scored on a Brett Lawrie opposite field home run. Al-Al, Nathan and Krol each pitched a third of the ninth. It took three relievers, including a $10 million closer to get three outs and they couldn't give Sanchez a win.
6/8 Start, Home vs. Boston
Sanchez- 6 innings, 2 earned runs, 7 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 hits
Bullpen- 3 innings, 3 earned runs, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks, 5 hits (Krol, Coke, Reed, Chamberlain)
A little of a mixed bag for Sanchez, but gave the Tigers a chance to win.
Encouragingly enough, Phil Coke was good, going 1 1/3 innings and not giving up a run on one hit. Joba Chamberlain came in and botched a save opportunity with Joe Nathan (Not surprisingly) unavailable to pitch a single inning. Chamberlain gives up three runs in a 5-3 loss.
If any pitcher pitches this well over this span, they expect at least three wins. Though the bullpen was serviceable at best in this stretch, a disturbing look at this rash of late inning ugliness shows that its the offense that has hidden behind bad bullpen play and quietly been lacking in Sanchez's appearances.
While the Tigers scored seven in Sanchez's 5/23 start, they scored seven over his next three (one vs. Oakland, three vs. Toronto/Boston).
Anibal Sanchez is worth far more than the $80 million he got in his extension at this point, but the other 24 men on the roster seem to fall asleep when he takes the mound.