First Impressions: SP Ian Anderson

First Impressions: SP Ian Anderson

Written by: Danny Hacker
Follow him on Twitter: @theGREATdanny94
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To say the Braves rotation woes have been horrific is saying it really lightly. You’d have to count on two hands plus some toes in order to fully feel the impact of just how much starting pitching they have lost or has faltered. Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, Mike Foltynewicz, Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint have all either faltered, gotten hurt or have opted out. Mike Soroka unfortunately tore his achilles tendon and is now out for the rest of the season and probably into 2021 as well. That has left Robbie Erlin and Josh Tomlin to try and be efficient in the rotation which has come with mixed results. As each one was DFA’d, the cries for Ian Anderson, the Braves 2016 1st Rounder out of Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, New York, only got louder and louder.

Well yesterday, that day finally came. It’s one thing to make your MLB debut at all, another to be starting vs the Yankees, and ultimately against Gerrit Cole, one of the best pitchers in the entire sport right now. I have been very high on Anderson, just as most have, since he was selected 3rd Overall and ultimately believe he can be a front of the rotation arm someday at his peak. Yesterday, he threw with the confidence of a front of the rotation arm against the Yankees and delivered a great debut and becoming the first Braves pitcher in almost a month to go 5 innings in a start. You could even say his confidence during this start was as thick as a brick.

The Line: 6.0, 1ER, 1R, 1H, 6K, 2BB (1 Home Run) and an overall 32% CSW%

The Pitch Breakdown: 90 Total Pitches (55 for Strikes, 61.1%)

Pitch:Number/%CSW%Avg VeloMax VeloSpin Rate
4 Seam Fastball40 (44%)33%94.0 mph95.8 mph2,000 RPM
Changeup35 (39%)31%87.5 mph89.3 mph1,644 RPM
Curveball15 (17%)33%79.9 mph82 mph2,076 RPM

Anderson’s fastball sat around 94 mph with a spin rate of 2,000 rpm resulting in a 33% CSW% and of the 40 that Anderson threw, 13 were swung at (2 were whiffs, one for a K), 11 were called strikes and 7 were put into play (one being the Voit home run). For most of the start, he controlled it really well and threw it all around zone which is something coming into this start he needed to do more of. Normally he commands it best as a high fastball and sometimes would get burned by doing that too predictably so it was really promising to see him throw the high fastball but also paint it all around the zone to keep it not as predictiable to Yankees hitters. The pitch also played up due to how well he was mixing in his changeup which has the same release point and had hitters (especially Gardner) confused for most of the day.

The fastball did have four hard hit balls off of it, including a Luke Voit home run in the 6th to break up the no-hitter, but kept two on the ground and the other in the park due to them being on the corners of the zone. Voit’s home run was a fastball down the middle he tried to sneak by or lost control of but either way, that’s a pitch he knows he can’t make or else hitters will hit that out especially with the low to mid 90s velo Anderson sits at normally. He started losing fastball command in the 5th as his high fastball started going way high and a little all over the place but he was able to work through it.

I can not say enough about how far Anderson’s changeup has come. When he was drafted in 2016, it was a fringy third pitch that he didn’t have much feel for or really threw that often due to the fact he didn’t need it in high school but now it is his go-to secondary pitch that is truly a major weapon. The pitch sat around 87 mph with a spin rate of 1,644 RPM which resulted in a 31% CSW% and of the 35 times he threw it, 18 were swung at (8 were whiffs), 3 were called strikes and 4 were put into play. He not only had really great feel of it but also had extreme confidence in it as he was throwing it in any count to any hitter and for the most time it was for a strike to which allowed his fastball to really play up more as hitters didn’t know what to expect.

Both pitches were thrown for nearly the same percentage (44% Fastballs, 39% Changeups) and frustrated many hitters all day especially Brett Gardner. In a series of two at bats, Gardner got up 3-1 and Anderson proceeded to not just throw one changeup for a whiff but two back to back both swung on and missed (video below). The next at bat, Gardner took a curveball for strike one and then proceeded to sit changeup as he watched one for ball 1 and fouled off another. He seemingly was still sitting changeup and Anderson blew a fastball by him for a called strike three.

Other than Anderson’s first changeup that was lined out, there was only one other hard hit ball off of the pitch which was a groundball in the 4th inning that almost was a double play. At the end he started losing command in general and as a result a lot of changeups in the 6th were in the dirt but was able to still get a 3-2 swing and miss on it by Mike Ford for his 6th K of the day.

There’s a tweet I saw this morning by @ckurcon that said the pitch averaged 10″ of horizontal movement and 10″ of vertical movement which with along with the velocity, only him, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and Zack Wheeler have changeups that do that. Have fun watching these.

Anderson’s curveball has always been described as a power curve and was considered his best secondary coming out of high school. Over the years, it has taken a back seat to the changeup and while that was evident last night, when Anderson mixed it in, it still was very effective. The pitch sat around 80 mph with a spin rate of 2,076 RPM which resulted in a 33% CSW%. Of the 15 times it was thrown, 7 were swung at (2 were whiffs), 3 were called strikes and 2 were put into play. He commanded the pitch well and threw it enough times to keep hitters mindful of it. It wasn’t bad by any means, it only had one hard hit ball off of it which was a groundball in the 5th, and like I said above, it was effective when Anderson mixed it in. He had a good feel for it and as a result, his command of it was good. I am curious to see how often he throws the pitch moving forward because it can be an average to flashing above average which would allow him to have three above average pitches if it can become fully above average. Even if not, he still should throw it more than a primary fastball/changeup guy like Chris Paddack (throws his curveball only 8% of the time).

One major knock on Anderson coming into his debut was his control/command which he has struggled with on and off quite a bit all throughout his minor league career. Last night he threw 55 of 90 pitches for strikes which resulted in a 61.1% strike percentage however for most of the game it had been even higher than that.

For most of the game, Anderson had great command/control and had absolutely no issues for the most part throwing any of his three pitches for strikes. Like I mentioned above, the way he was able to command his changeup allowed his fastball to play up even more due to the fact he was commanding the fastball great as well. He did walk two batters (Wade in the third, Ford in the fourth) and got into 6 three ball counts so there were some hints of what has been an issue for him like mentioned above. You could also start to see him lose his fastball command in the fifth a little bit and overall command/control in the sixth but he battled through it and got Ford to strike out to end the sixth. I was overall really impressed by his command/control last night and moving forward is a huge thing for him to take the next step and become the front line starter I think he can be.

Overall, everything from Ian Anderson last night was really good and for him to do what he did against the Yankees (albeit some are hurt) is a huge boost for his confidence and downright incredible. You could not have asked for much more of a better outing from a kid making his major league debut and he completely stepped up to the challenge, out-dueling Gerrit Cole and had 5.1 no hit innings to which he only allowed one hit all day. Not every outing will look like this and you shouldn’t expect them to as he starts out his major league career but last night was a great first step in the right direction to reaching his potential as a front line starter.

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