The Miami Marlins, trying to stay in the Wild Card chase as a run at the NL East title looks about as likely as Ozzie Guillen giving up cursing, added Carlos Lee from the Houston Astros in exchange for prospects Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen. While the 36-year-old Lee is no longer the hard-hitting El Caballo of years past (he's got a 103 OPS+ this year), the Marlins at least hope he can avoid turning in the sort of utterly disastrous performance that is Gaby Sanchez's 2012 season.
Sanchez posted a combined 111 OPS+ during his first two years as a starter in the majors, but the 28-year-old has tanked to the tune of a 49 OPS+ in a little less than 200 plate appearances this year. If the former Miami Hurricane now on the outs with the club that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft is going to re-establish himself as a big leaguer, he'll have to start making louder contact on the outer half of the plate.
Sanchez has never been a big slugger on outer-half pitches, but he at least avoided getting the bat knocked out of his hands when pitchers threw outside in 2010-11:
He slugged .393 against pitches thrown on the outer half, slightly above the .384 big league average. But in 2012, the newest and least happy member of the New Orleans Zephyrs has made next to no hard contact on the outer half:
Sanchez is slugging .171 on the outer half this season. That's the worst mark in the game among batters with at least 150 plate appearances and nearly 40 points lower than the next-worst hitter, Minnesota's Alexi Casilla. Opponents have keyed in on Sanchez's outside slugging woes, locating 58 percent of their pitches on the outer half and doing so 53 percent of the time in 2010-11.
Is Lee a real upgrade over Sanchez? Maybe. ZiPS projects Lee to top Sanchez in OPS slightly during the rest of the 2012 season (.761 for Lee, .735 for Sanchez). If you think Sanchez's issues on the outer half will persist, the trade is a decent stopgap that comes with cash to pay Lee's salary and no premium farm talent surrendered. If you think Sanchez's work in 2010-11 is more indicative of his talent level, it's more a case of adding a big name than a big upgrade at first base.