Three Cuts: Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis on pace to make history for Braves

The Tigers declined his option. The Twins released him. But Anibal Sanchez is now riding a run of three straight starts with a 0.93 ERA and opposing batters scuffling to the tune of a .138/.176/.292 slash line.

Their loss has most certainly been the Braves’ gain, as the 34-year-old former ERA title winner from five years ago has found his groove again.

Coming off a season in which he had a 6.41 ERA in 105 1/3 innings over 28 appearances (17 starts) with Detroit, Sanchez sports a 1.93 ERA in seven games (six starts) for the Braves.

He’s thriving by doing what he’s done at his very best during his 13-year career: confusing hitters … while continuing a Braves’ history of success with reclamation projects.

The average fastball velocity — once at a career-high 94.2 mph during that aforementioned 2013 season — has dipped to 90.6, and so too, has Sanchez’s usage of the pitch. He’s throwing it just 28.5 percent of the time compared to 40.9 just two seasons ago, and he’s relying even more on a changeup that he’s offering up a rate of 22.6 percent. Two years ago, he threw it just 16.7 percent of the time.

The pitch he calls the “butterfly,” the changeup which Sanchez has bewildered opponents at a turtle pace of as low as 66 mph, gives him an average changeup velocity of 80.9 mph. Only nine starters with at least 30 innings pitched have been slower, and at the same time, it’s helped Sanchez sit 28th in the majors with 2.2 changeup runs above average.

It’s only been seven games — and small-sample size me all you want — but he currently sports an ERA+ of 201 that’s secondly to only Justin Verlander among starters 34 or older, and the Astros ace — and his former Tigers teammate — is the only player in that age demographic with better ERA (1.61).

The right-hander has provided Atlanta with three quality starts this season, and he’s just the latest aging pitcher to do so. Since the start of the 2013 season, no one has had more players 34-plus provide a QS than the Braves’ eight, a list that includes the likes of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Tim Hudson and Brandon McCarthy, who has three this season. But it also includes arms with similar storylines to Sanchez’s.

Aaron Harang was let go by the Indians in ’14 and gave Atlanta 25 quality starts in 2014 at age 36; Garcia was acquired for cash considerations in ’13 at age 36 and had three QS, and made a start in the National League Division Series vs. the Dodgers; and Eric Stults signed a minor league deal in the winter of 2015 and provided three quality starts at 35.

There are peripherals that Sanchez may not be able to maintain this level of production — the 1.5 HR/9 over the last three starts is concerning — but the veteran has provided more value than anyone could have expected when the Braves brought him in for a look late in spring training.

He also could provide manager Brian Snitker with some difficult decisions when his rotation options all return to health. Which takes us to …

Jason Getz Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Source: Fox Sports

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