Tag Archives: Chase Anderson

Has Chase Anderson figured it out?

As of April 25, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Chase Anderson owns the lowest ERA among qualified pitchers in the National League. I don’t know what part of that is more strange; the fact that a Brewers’ pitcher has been that dominant or that it’s Chase Anderson — a 3.8 WAR player over 442.2 innings. And we can’t forget that Anderson was on the outside looking in in terms of the starting rotation during spring training, and he himself believes he wouldn’t be among the five if Matt Garza hadn’t gotten hurt.

But Garza, unsurprisingly, opened the season on the disabled list, and Anderson has made the most of it, and will almost definitely keep his spot when Junior Guerra comes back. So now that we’ve established that Chase Anderson will win this year’s Cy Young Award, it’s time to figure out how and why. Has he finally figured it out?

In this new era of sabermetrics, we talk a lot about exit velocity, and how limiting hard-hit balls is usually a good thing for pitchers. With that being said, let’s take a gander over to the exit velocity leaderboards according to Statcast. Below is a chart. On that chart is a list of starting pitchers who have allowed the lowest exit velocities in MLB this year. Maybe you’ll see someone familiar down there.

Rank Player Avg. Exit Veloity
1 Michael Wacha 81.9 MPH
2 Jon Gray 82.0 MPH
3 Jake Arrieta 83.0 MPH
4 Ervin Santana 83.2 MPH
5 Chase Anderson 83.5 MPH

Well, darn it all, if it isn’t Chase Anderson! No wonder he’s been so good!

It’s well known that strikeout pitchers usually generate more weak contact than a non-strikeout pitcher, and Anderson has indeed raised his K rate from 18.6% in 2016 to 22.9% in 2017. Yes, the sample size is small — just 24.0 innings — but there’s reason to believe these strike outs are for real. For starters, Anderson has increased the vertical movement on almost all of his pitches, particularly his cutter — which he’s throwing at the highest rate of his career (15%). And, as you probably know, more movement = harder to hit.

Below is a chart of Anderson’s vertical movement in terms of inches (courtesy of Brooks Baseball).

His pitches have more vertical movement than ever before, but instead of moving down in the zone, Anderson’s pitches seem to be rising. His cutter has risen by over 2.6 inches, while his sinker — which you would think a pitcher would typically want to drop away into the lower half of the zone — has risen by almost by half an inch as well. His fourseamer has seen some mediocre rise, as well has his changeup. Now, his curveball has lost some drop, and that’s probably not a good thing, especially moving forward. But if nothing else, this is an interesting development, so let’s see how well batters are faring against these pitches to get a better understanding if his increase in vertical movement is helping.

Clearly, the vertical movement is helping Anderson, especially when throwing his hard stuff. His two offspeed pitches — curveball and changeup– are the only two that have seen a negative effect over a decrease in drop, but can we really complain about a .214 average? No. No, we can’t.

But despite all of this, it’s Anderson’s new-found belief in his cutter that has him leading the Cy Young race (not really, but you know what I mean). He’s increased his cutter usage from 5% to over 15% and the vertical movement probably has a lot to do with that. Now, I’m not saying Anderson will continue this dominance, because he surely won’t, but the signs so far are encouraging. His FIP and xFIP back up his ERA, and his walks — which have never really been an issue — have decreased by over a walk per inning.

I’m hesitant to say it, but maybe, just maybe, Chase Anderson is good?

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If I were manager: Picking the Brewers starting rotation

Let’s play a game. You like games, right? Good, because we’re going to pretend I’m the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and I get to pick the starting rotation. Game on.

The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation posted a combined 4.40 ERA and 8.5 WAR in 2016, ranking 17th and 20th, respectively. A good portion of the rotation’s WAR came from Zach Davies (2.8) and Junior Guerra (2.5), but overall it was just slightly below league average, despite you probably thinking otherwise. With no big-name free agent starters added to the pool, Milwaukee’s pitching staff doesn’t figure to be too much better in 2017, especially if the team rolls out the same lot it did a year ago. But is that really going to happen?

The Brewers have arguably seven pitchers who could start. Only four of them probably should, but manager Craig Counsell needs five. And so do I since I’m taking over as manager for this post. Here are the seven candidates according to Milwaukee’s depth chart:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Wily Peralta
  5. Chase Anderson
  6. Matt Garza
  7. Tommy Milone

Guerra and Davies are my top two pitchers and are definite locks to make the rotation. RW23 believes Guerra and Davies will see some regression this upcoming season, but not nearly enough to cause alarm. They should still be the best pitchers on the Brewers.

Notice how Garza isn’t listed among the top five. Given how much the Brewers are paying him, that’s a rather big surprise, but his stats back it up. Garza continued to prove he was one of the worst free agent signings in history by accumulating a 4.51 ERA and 4.33 FIP last year, bringing his Brewers total to 4.59 ERA/4.27 FIP across the last three seasons. He’s no longer a viable starting pitcher, and odds are he’ll only be worse this season. As manager, he will not be a part of my rotation. I’m going to stick him in the bullpen where he’ll hopefully eat up some innings as a long reliever. I’d cut him, but he’s owed $12.5 million in 2017, and that’s a lot of money to pay someone to not be on the team.

Like Garza, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson also struggled mightily. Peralta so much so that he was sent down to the minors to try and get right. Nelson, instead of taking another step forward, fell back and posted the highest FIP (5.12) of his career. Still, there’s upside remaining with both of them, more so with Nelson’s side, though. Walks really hurt him last year, along with the home run ball, and If he gets those things figured out, we should see some improvement. As for Peralta, well, I think we know what we’re going to get from him. He’s at best a No. 4 pitcher, and that’s being generous. He needs another chance to return to his 2014 form, though, so I’m going to give him one. Peralta and Nelson, welcome to my rotation.

Four spots are filled with one to go. Anderson and Milone are the final contestants, and neither of them are exactly endearing. Anderson has become increasingly more defective as his career rolls on, and even though he’s just 29, there’s literally no upside. Milone, on the other hand, has been serviceable but has never been considered a good pitcher. He’ll be 30 on Feb. 16 and owns a career 4.12 ERA in 673.1 innings as a starter. And although that ERA would be useful on many ball clubs, he’s never really been able to stick to a team. He started for the Athletics for parts of three seasons and was then shipped to the Twins in 2014 for another two and a half years. In 12 starts a year ago, he was blasted by everyone, as his 5.71 and 5.54 FIP clearly stated. And yet…

I’m going with Tommy Milone to round out my rotation. He’s been a better pitcher throughout his career than Anderson, and it’d be useful to have a southpaw in the mix. Milone has been underrated throughout his career, and I’d like to see what he can bring.

So here it is, my 2017 starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Tommy Milone
  5. Wily Peralta

Milone’s in at No. 4 just to break up the string of right-handed pitchers, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he outperformed Peralta. Regardless, that’s a rather uninspiring group, and it honestly might develop into the worst rotation in MLB if it stays that way.

Help is on the way, however, as Josh Hader should be just a few months away from breaking the rotation. I don’t believe he’ll make the roster right out of spring training, but if he does, he should absolutely be in the rotation. I’m not buying him as a reliever. He’s more than that. Taylor Jungmann isn’t on here either, solely because I don’t think the Brewers have any faith in him. They have Milone on their depth chart over him, for crying out loud.

Until the Brewers are ready to compete, they must adapt to an iffy starting rotation, as underwhelming as it may be. It’s forecasted to be another long season in Milwaukee.

Brewers make interesting/confusing trade with Diamondbacks

The Brewers have officially given up on Jean Segura, a player once thought to be half of Milwaukee’s middle infield for years to come. On Saturday night, GM David Stearns sent the young shortstop and RHP Tyler Wagner to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 2B Aaron Hill, RHP Chase Anderson and infield prospect Isan Diaz. Reminder: Segura was the prized-prospect the Brewers received when they traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels.

By trading Segura, the team opened a spot at shortstop for Orlando Arcia, the Brewers’ top prospect and an overall top-10 prospect in Major League Baseball. Arcia, according to Stearns will still start the year in Triple-A, but now a future trade to clear space is no longer necessary. After years of incompetence at the plate, Segura quickly lost his place in Milwaukee’s future plans. He was tremendous in his first full season with the Brewers in 2013, accumulating a 3.5 WAR with a surprisingly above-average bat (105 wRC+). That, however, was his only even remotely decent season. Over the next two, he failed to post wRC+’s above 70, and if you forgot, a league average wRC+ is 100. His on-base percentages barely even whiffed .290. As a ground-ball hitter with no power and who doesn’t walk, his usefulness at the plate was non-existent. The Brewers absolutely needed to trade him. And as far as Wagner goes, well, he’s really nothing more than a throw in. Maybe he can be an innings-eating reliever. Maybe.

But while I was of the opinion that Segura needed to be moved, I thought the return would be relatively small. His age is his only real value right now, so what would a team realistically give up to acquire him? Stearns somehow worked his magic again, though, and landed two interesting players (one with huge upside) and one fading veteran.

With that being said, I am still somewhat confused about Milwaukee’s return, making this the first of Stearns’ many moves that I’ve questioned.

Aaron Hill, an aging vet, is for lack of a better term worthless. He’ll need to platoon with Scooter Gennett to at least be a little productive. Hill used to be a very good player, but the last few seasons has been dreadful. In 2014, he was worth -0.9 WAR and last year 0.1 WAR. He’s 34 and on the last legs of his career. I mean, look at his OBP over the last few seasons:

Hill

What good does he do the Brewers? Even if Hill was still in his prime, he would be of little help. The Brewers aren’t trying to win right now. Or next year. Or the year after that. They need young, cheap players; not a failing second baseman who will cost them $5.5 million in 2016. (Thank god the DIamondbacks are forking over $6.5 million.) I’m assuming the Diamondbacks insisted that Hill be included in the deal. They were probably more than happy to shed some of his salary. The best case scenario on the Brewers side is if they can flip Hill at the deadline, although the return will be smaller than an ant.

The same can be said for Chase Anderson, although he’s more of an average player than Hill and will be around a lot longer. His age is what makes him a confusing acquisition. Anderson has played just two years in the majors, but he’s entering his age-28 season with no clear upside. He’s been a league-average pitcher in his 48 career starts (4.18 ERA and 4.17 FIP). He does have one of the best changeups in the game, but with a fastball that averages 91 mph, his arsenal is weak and it doesn’t get him many strikeouts.

Anderson won’t cost the Brewers much, and is destined to be in the starting rotation for years to come according to Stearns, but did Milwaukee really need a back-of-the-rotation starter? I’m not so sure.

Obviously, this deal will be made or broken by the progression and career of Isan Diaz. Diamondbacks’ GM Dave Stewart said Diaz was the first player the Brewers asked for when trade discussions commenced, and when looking at his last season in rookie ball, it’s easy to see why. The 19-year-old shortstop posted an insane .436 OBP and an even more crazy 169 wRC+ in 312 plate appearances. He was named the Pioneer League MVP in September. (Lyle Overbay was honored with the same award in 1999.) For a shortstop, he has some pop in his bat and the ability to walk, two things that Segura could never do. Diaz already has a higher ceiling than Segura.

Diaz is the only part of the trade that I really like and understand. He has a chance to be an above-average fielder and hitter, and the fact he’s so young gives him a lot of time to keep improving on his art. The Brewers are in no rush to get him to Milwaukee. Once again, the Brewers are playing the “high-ceiling” game, hoping Diaz turns into a respectable major-league player.

As far as Hill and Anderson go, well, I guess we’ll just have to see what happens. I could reasonably see Anderson turning into a No. 3 starter, but by the time the Brewers are ready to compete, he’ll most likely be past his prime. That’s my biggest problem with acquiring him. Hill is already past his prime and will do nothing to help the Brewers going forward. A throw-in is all he is.

The Brewers have made many great moves this offseason, but this might be the most interesting one.