Gary Sanchez’s prodigious bat is his best defense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Maybe we should establish a system.

Maybe, when Gary Sanchez has a night like this, we suspend talk of his viability at catcher for, what? Two weeks?

Or do we really need to run a cost-benefit analysis here?

Consider The Kraken released. Sanchez’s monster Saturday night led the Yankees to an 8-3 mauling of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, and when he wasn’t terrorizing Royals pitching, he guided his own starting pitcher Luis Severino to his seventh win on the season, tying Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for the American League lead.

To help the Yankees (29-13) stay nominally tied with — and two games ahead in the loss column of — the Red Sox (31-15), Sanchez homered twice, doubled and singled. The only disappointment came in his failure to connect on his first major-league triple. The 25-year-old is far removed from his March/April funk.

“I definitely feel better at the plate,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “That being said, in my mind, I know I’m not going to hit .210. It’s a long season. There’s a lot of games to come. But I’m definitely feeling better at the plate.”

His slash line now stands at .225/.323/.549 — at his nadir, on April 3, he wore an .053/.053/.105 — and as his modern-thinking manager Aaron Boone said, “I don’t really get caught up in average. When you guys talk to me about this, I’m looking at OPSes, on-base percentage, at-bat quality.”

The at-bat quality can be found in that current gap between his batting average and on-base percentage, whereas they were identical at that low point. “The thing that I’m excited about for Gary is, I think the first few weeks, he didn’t walk,” Boone said. “I think sometimes, he can get so hitter-ish because he can handle so many pitches and what I’ve seen now is the patience. And with the patience, you get into better counts. Now you get some mistakes. And Gary hits the ball out of the ballpark when you give mistakes to him.

“So that’s what gets me excited. When he’s controlling the zone, he’s on the short list of deadly hitters. And that’s what we’re starting to see more and more.”

“It’s about not swinging about bad pitches,” Sanchez agreed. “I say this all of the time, but it’s that simple. I’m looking for pitches in the zone and making sure if I get them, I don’t miss them.”

His defense may never look beautiful, though in a rare bit of good news, the White Sox’s Omar Narvaez committed his seventh passed ball Saturday to tie Sanchez for the AL lead. Yet his work with most of his pitchers, with the notable exception of Sonny Gray, goes pretty well. Severino now sports a 2.21 ERA working with Sanchez in six of his 10 starts. CC Sabathia has used Sanchez as a battery mate in all eight of his starts and has a 2.40 ERA. On Saturday night, furthermore, Sanchez made a nice tag on Mike Moustakas at the plate to keep the game at 5-3.

“I think on both sides of the ball he’s doing it right now,” Boone said.

Whatever he takes away on defense — and most of the metrics score him as a positive — he provides so very much on offense. He has 10 multi-homer games, the fourth most by a Yankee aged 25 or younger. He trails only Joe DiMaggio (17), Mickey Mantle (14) and Lou Gehrig (13). The only major leaguer, ever, to approach this display of power through 216 major-league games (Sanchez’s current total) was Rudy York, who did so eight times.

He is historic with the bat, adequate on defense. It’s a winning combination. After seeing what Sanchez can do, shouldn’t it provide him just a little respite from the chatter about what he can’t do?

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