Anderson’s Step Forward

I watched Brett Anderson carve up the Mariner offense (granted, one missing both Ichiro and Adrian Beltre) last night and was highly impressed, as is getting to be routine. If you watch this 21-year-old throw and don’t come away thinking that the A’s have found their future ace, you’re in the minority. Anderson is opening eyes every time he takes the hill.

The interesting thing about last night, though, is how much better his stuff was than the first time I saw him pitch this year. On April 10th, he gave up five runs in seven innings against the Mariners, only notching two strikeouts, while his fastball topped out at 93 and his breaking ball was in the low-80s. It was his major league debut, but the stuff was less than what had been reported in the minors.

Last night, it was better than I had heard coming into the year. Up to 97 with the fastball and a mid-80s hard breaking ball that no one could touch made him look utterly dominating. It wasn’t a one night fluke, either – here’s Anderson’s velocity chart for the season.

Anderson

Whether the reason, Anderson didn’t leave spring training with his best stuff. His first six starts, he managed just 31 innings, gave up 28 runs, walked 10, and struck out 15. The stuff was just okay, the command wasn’t great, and he just didn’t look like a premier young pitcher.

Then, towards the end of May, the stuff shot up. Instead of averaging 90-91 with the fastball, he was suddenly at 93-94, topping out in the high-90s, and the slider went from 82 to 85. The results have been dramatically different since then:

18 starts, 109 innings, 49 runs, 29 walks, 102 strikeouts, 12 HR, 3.61 FIP.

That’s an impressive run for any pitcher, much less a 21-year-old rookie who had all of six starts at Double-A coming into the season. And, with the stuff taking a significant step forward, there’s a real reason for the improvement. His overall season line might not blow you away, but for the last three months, Anderson has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.

I have a feeling we’re going to be saying that about him for a long, long time. This kid is good.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

24 Responses to “Anderson’s Step Forward”

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  1. GhettoBear04 says:

    Dave,

    If you got to make a starting rotation this offseason made up of nothing but AL West pitchers and prospects that had to last you the next 2-3 years, who would you pick? Let’s say you get to pick 5 and maybe an optional 6th.

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    • Jordan B says:

      I know this was meant for Dave, but I’ll give it a shot.

      1. Felix Hernandez
      2. Neftali Feliz
      3. Brett Anderson
      4. Dallas Braden
      5. Derek Holland

      With Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler, David Aardsma, Frankie Francisco, and Jose Arredondo out of the pen.
      Admittedly, my knowledge of prospects is somewhat lacking, but whatever…

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      • Shush says:

        I’d want Lackey somewhere, too.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        Considering the 3-year window, I don’t think you’d want to go too prospect heavy anyway. How about this?

        1. Felix
        2. Bedard
        3. Anderson
        4. Weaver
        5. Braden

        I’m not sure how this hypothetical works, but if we’re allowed to include free agent-to-be John Lackey, he slots in at #3. I don’t know enough about Bedard’s health going forward, but there’s no question he’s one of the top starters in the AL West when he’s right. Braden’s K rate is a bit troubling though….

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  2. Basil Ganglia says:

    Also note the large increase in velocity range. Not only has his fastball velocity increased, but the off-speed stuff is actually a blt slower.

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  3. Matt B. says:

    I don’t trust any lefties named Anderson! Too risky!

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  4. Sam says:

    Very timely piece. I saw him pitch a two-hit shutout against the Sox at Fenway, and he pitched really well against the Yankees, but with lesser results.

    This kid is going to be an absolute beast.

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  5. Cletus says:

    Even though it’s a ridiculous question, I have to ask:

    If you were building a team — say, today — and had a choice between David Price and Brett Anderson, who would you pick? (I’d still take Price, but I’m wondering if anyone else feels that the gap has narrowed.).

    Love the site.

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    • Wally says:

      Well, I’d take Anderson. He’s about 2.5 years younger and already has shown better results in MLB over more innings that Price. Price might be able to K a few more guys, but Anderson walks about half as many people. So, maybe Price has a slight advantage on up side, but Anderson seems like a lot less risk right now. Add it all up, and I don’t think its all that close anymore.

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      • lincolndude says:

        Anderson would likely have been hyped as much as or more than Price if he’d been spent more time dominating the minors. What he has done this year after only 6 AA starts is really amazing. I agree, I don’t think it’s close.

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      • joser says:

        Anderson would have been hyped more if (1) he’d been taken first in the draft and (2) he played in the AL East. Price gets more attention thanks to that.

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    • Matt B. says:

      Price is having a tough year, but has turned the corner seemingly. Let’s judge when they are both pitching to the best of (both) their abilities. I am still high on Price going forward.

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  6. Adam says:

    He’s also one ugly f*&^er…

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  7. Matthew says:

    wow this kid is going to be a beast for a long long time….

    2006 Draft 1st round Clayton Kershaw
    2006 Draft 2nd Round Brett Anderson

    They were Born 1 month Apart from each other….

    Who would you rather have for the long term??

    and no david price is a distant 3rd among young left hand starters maybe even 4th after Brain Matusz

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    • Sean Brown says:

      I would take Kershaw but I would be happy with Anderson as well. I know wins are overrated but Kershaw will likely see more unless the A’s can turn things around. On a side note, I gladly don’t have to decide as I have both of them in a Dynasty.

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  8. Matt S. says:

    I think the start Sam mentioned against the Red Sox was a big one for him. He had been starting to right the ship before then, but after going into Fenway and 2 hitting a lineup that was among the top in baseball at the time, he really turned up his game.

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  9. Larry Yocum says:

    I have been covering and following Anderson all year and that fastball velocity is key. In the games where he has been rocked, he is between 90-92 and when he is at 94-95 and touching 97, he is almost unhittable. In the Chicago game his velocity was at 90.79 on avg. and he got rocked and last night he was at 93.28 and looked great.

    I noticed a good 3-4 mph increase in his fastball when the A’s started to build an extra day or two of rest in for him. Ever since then, he has been great. As he gets older and better conditioned, he is going to be scary good. The only thing I would like to see is refining that changeup. He only threw 1 in the Chicago game and 7 last night. If he can develop that to go with the slurve thing he has going on and that fastball, he will be dominant for a long time.

    Great piece Dave. I commented on it in my own as I was researching his fastball velocities to discuss last night’s game and came across this piece. Good stuff. Tonight Gio goes for the A’s and has found a similar 2-3 mph extra lately and is also pitching better since tightening up the curve and ditching the change.

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  10. Kris says:

    Dave, you’re normally very thorough but you seemed to miss the in your face correlation with Anderson tightening up his release point.

    The big fatty tag has haunted Anderson since he’s been in baseball. Throw in a sloppy release point, and a velocity dip, and I think we really have to attribute this to injury, or big fatty syndrome.

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    • Wally says:

      I don’t know what you’re talking about.

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    • Chris says:

      I’m pretty sure what you are seeing as a sloppy release point is a change in where he stands on the rubber for RH vs LH. He now keeps the same position on the rubber instead of moving to the other side…

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      • Kris says:

        Hey Chris, I thought of that but looking at the pitch dispersion I figured I’d keep it simple stupid.

        At first, you’re right it looks like he’s throwing change-up and sliders to different handed batters, but as it progresses (graph 2) the pattern sort of breaks, and the balls coming from everywhere. These graphs are each a few months a part, and you can see graph A gradually become graph b, which gradually becomes graph C.

        Is this because he’s just micro moving?

        If you get a chance, just take a look at all the graphs and let me know what you think.

        A Velocity spike doesn’t seem like it’d correlate that well to “standing put”

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  11. Aaron B. says:

    This is nice to see, since I’ve been pimping Anderson over Cahill for a while.

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  12. BronxOrioleFan says:

    I’m having a keeper dilemma regarding Anderson and Adam Jones. Any thoughts? I tend to think Anderson has a better chance at being a once-in-a-generation elite talent at pitcher than Jones has as an outfielder, given his plate discipline, ground ball rate, and injury issues. In a 12-team, 8-keeper league, (12 batting/12 pitching categories) where I am already keeping Teixeira, Hanley, Aramis, Braun, Ichiro, CC, and Felix, anybody think I’m crazy to keep Anderson over Jones?

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