As far as AL West aces go, most people could probably give you three easily: Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Jered Weaver. Brett Anderson of the Oakland Athletics has largely flown under the radar, receiving all of two Rookie of the Year votes in a stellar 2009 campaign and having a solid 2010 go mostly unnoticed due to injury. Yesterday, Anderson continued to stymie AL hitters, holding the Seattle Mariners to one run in 7.2 innings, walking none, allowing four hits including a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez, and striking out four.
The start lowered Anderson’s ERA to 2.98 in 78.2 innings, and that’s well supported by a 3.12 FIP. Anderson has thrived on excellent control, limiting opponents to only 1.77 walks per nine innings. That’s in part because opponents make more contact off him than the average pitcher – only a 6.4% swinging strike rate against a league average of around 8% – but also because he hits the zone more than average as well. Despite the low amount of whiffs, Anderson still strikes out 6.5 batters per 9 innings, a respectable total. Perhaps even more important than his stupendous control of the strike zone, particularly this year, with more contact allowed, is Anderson’s ability to induce the ground ball. Twelve of the 22 balls in play hit against him on Labor Day were ground balls, and this is indicative of his season to date, as a whopping 56% of balls in play have been on the ground against Anderson in 2010. That’s a big reason why he has a 0.38 HR/9 rate this season, and although he probably won’t give up home runs on only 5.5% of fly balls for the rest of his career or even this season, his xFIP is still an excellent 3.61.
Brett Anderson has found a recipe for success built on solid command and control, a fantastic slider, and an ability to keep the ball on the ground. Obviously nobody noticed last year, as a fantastic campaign received no postseason award recognition. Anderson missed the meat of the summer this season due to an elbow injury, but he’s returned on the same note that he left. Anderson is poised to post over 6 wins above replacement in his first two seasons in the majors, and will enter his age 23 season ready to show those around the country, both on the field and at home, that he’s a legitimate staff ace.