If Loving Brett Anderson is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right
Last night, Brett Anderson started a major league game for the first time in 14 months and 16 days. We know the background — Anderson saw Tommy John surgery interrupt a burgeoning career at the age of 23 in June of 2011. I watched most of this game last night, as I really wanted to see how Anderson was going to look in his return. The results were overwhelmingly positive as he threw 7 IP allowing only 1 ER, 4 H (none of the extra-base persuasion) and striking out 4. Yes, it was a very good match-up against the Twins in Oakland, but there were two additional things about his start which were extremely important.
You know the old adage that control is the last thing come back after a pitcher undergoes Tommy John surgery. Anderson looks like he’s going to try to be the exception to this rule. In his career, Anderson has had a very stingy walk rate of 2.2 BB/9 in his career — and last night he not only had no walks, but he threw 62 of his 86 pitches for strikes against the Twins. This is good for the obvious reason, but also with Anderson likely being monitored pretty carefully from a pitch count perspective for the rest of this season, this type of control will allow him to go deeper into games, potentially increasing his chances of getting wins. If he had only made it through 5 innings last night, he would not have gotten the win — but going 7 got it done.
The other aspect to last night’s start which was amazing is that Anderson faced 22 hitters (yes, 22 — he had a triple play turned behind him and he picked off Josh Willingham) and he allowed ZERO fly balls. Anderson has always been a ground ball pitcher, but this kind of ratio is insane. Could it be partially due to pitch selection? It’s clearly a small sample, but Anderson relied more heavily on his 2-seamer and curveball than he historically has, while easing off his 4-seamer and his slider. Could be something interesting to keep an eye on as he finishes out this season.
Anderson is a guy I’ve been stashing everywhere this season because I love his skill set. If you’ve seen my stuff at Roto Hardball and Fake Teams, you’ve seen me talk about the holy trinity of pitching and Anderson fits the bill with a career 7.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 54% ground ball rate. This means he can limit the downside risk while he’s on the mound. Yes, he will also be helped by pitching half his games in the cavernous Coliseum, but not nearly in the same way as a fly ball machine like Tommy Milone. You should feel confident starting Anderson the rest of the way both at home and on the road — starting Monday in Cleveland. If he’s unowned in your league, no matter the size, go grab him. Now.