On the surface, Brett Anderson’s return to the green and gold was successful as he pitched into the 7th inning and allowed just 2 runs, keeping the game close enough for the A’s to strike late and pull off an unlikely win — unlikely because they struck out 16 times in the first 7 innings, had to survive bases loaded crises in the 8th and 9th, and had to get the 27th out twice.
Back to Anderson, was his first start more mirage or legitimate? The Eyeball Scout saw signs of both, but with a bit more “legit” than “quit”. Perhaps most promising of all was Anderson’s fastball velocity, which checked in consistently at 92MPH and topped out more than a few times at 94MPH. Perhaps Anderson’s myriad injuries over the years have left his arm younger than 30 in terms of mileage. The fastball we saw last night was pretty much the same as the one we saw in Anderson’s early-to-mid 20s with Oakland, and that’s a really good sign.
Also positive was the number of swings and misses Anderson’s slider earned. When he throws the late breaking, sharp slider, whether it’s down in “backfoot slider” territory or even up in the strike zone, batters clearly have difficulty tracking it. So while the 2-seam fastball got ground balls, the slider was a good swing-and-miss pitch that appears also to have held up over time.
On the less positive side, I did not like Anderson’s curve one bit. It has some break on it, but it is thrown slow and the break gradual, so that in stark contrast to the slider it is a pitch batters can track and adjust to well. As a “steal a called strike” pitch it is probably fine, but I cringe whenever I see batters swinging at the curve because they can center it hard and far. He threw it 8.8% of the time last night.
This is problematic because Anderson has ditched his changeup to become a 3-pitch pitcher, which means he has only 2 offerings I am happy to see him throw. For his career, Anderson has thrown about 8% changeups, but Fangraphs did not detect a single one last night and neither did the Eyeball Scout.
The other negative is that while he walked only one batter, Anderson’s ball-strike ratio left something to be desired: 80 pitches, 50 strikes, but he was running about 50/50 for the first few innings.
So on the plus side, Anderson’s fastball (47.5%) and slider (43.8%) were good and made up over 90% of his pitches. But it’s difficult for a SP to sustain success as primarily a 2-pitch pitcher, especially if you’re not pounding the strike zone and getting consistently into bad hitters’ counts.
In other words, with only 2 effective pitches and a mediocre ball-strike ratio, Anderson has a chance to be a mirage exposed going forward. But you can’t argue with 6.1 IP of 2 ER ball against a very solid lineup, not to mention doing it on all of 80 pitches.
Fortunately, the A’s are not looking to Anderson to be the possible ace he was projected to be when the A’s traded for him at age 19. They need a solid back-end SP and Anderson showed that he has a chance to come out of nowhere and fulfill this. Of the two late signings, though, the Eyeball Scout has been more bullish on Trevor Cahill and would put odds on Cahill being the more effective of the two. But we’ve been through the 2012 season so we can ask, “Why not boths?” Stranger things have happened.
What is your prediction for Brett Anderson going forward?
This poll is closed
Surprisingly great: legit middle of the rotation find
Solid #4 SP, bit of a savior
#5 SP, useful stopgap but doesn’t help team compete
Quickly stinking his way back to obscurity