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Through his first six MLB starts Colorado Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson has been terrific. In 35.2 innings he has allowed only 12 earned runs, good for a 3.03 ERA. The 2011 first round pick from Las Vegas, by way of the University of Oregon leads Rockies starters in BBs/9 at 1.51 and in groundball rate at 59.8%, he’s also third in Ks/9 at 8.07. But why might the southpaw soon struggle? We’ll get to that in a second.
First, it’s important to note how Anderson is getting his outs.
He is already notorious for front-and-backing hitters – meaning he’ll throw his offspeed pitches in any count. The only predictable thing he has done so far is use his four-seam fastball when behind against lefties. Aside from that, just looking at his pitch usage on first pitches shows he’s about as likely to throw a cutter or changeup to start off a batter as he is a four-seam fastball. That trend continues throughout at bats.
Manager Walt Weiss has been impressed with his ability to throw anything at any time which leaves the hitter guessing and makes Anderson look superior in inelegance.
“I really like what I see from Tyler,” Weiss said. “I really like the entire package, the makeup, the feel to pitch, the pitch mix, the changeup he can throw at any time the ability to put sequences together. He’s done an outstanding job for us he’s given us quite a lift.”
There is really no denying Anderson’s overall performance, he’s been unequivocally solid. But with the 26-year-old left-hander arsenal of a four-seam fastball at 92 mph, a cutter touching 87 mph with a Sinker at 91 mph and a rarely used curve at 79 mph he isn’t blowing anyone away. None of those pitches are plus pitches, in addition, only his two fastballs really generate ground balls. The only pitch Anderson has that is plus is his 82 mph changeup.
There isn’t anything wrong with this, in fact, a lot of pitchers get by with an average 92 mph fastball and a plus changeup, especially as a lefty; Jorge De La Rosa being a prime example of this. The problem for Anderson is that because his stuff his not going to blow anybody away he has to keep the hitter guessing, either completely off-putting them and forcing them to whiff, or inducing weak contact. Nothing is easy at the major league level, but it is easier to do this as a pitcher in their first run through the league than in subsequent times when teams start to adjust.
As he starts the second half, the book is still being written on him and many teams have not scouted him to the level where they can guess when he may throw what. It even looks like Anderson will not face a team he has already pitched against until mid-August. But he is extremely susceptible to having a tough time as he faces teams for the second time because he is a pitcher that relies on unpredictability rather than “blow you away” stuff.
Anderson is good, he always has been, through every level of the minor leagues and at every stop in his baseball career he has proven that. But this will be his next challenge, establishing himself as a big leaguer and proving that he can be a piece in the Rockies long-term plan. With the help of veterans in the clubhouse and the savvy of his hurling, he’s got a pretty good chance to not let something that affects many pitchers effect him. On the other hand, he’s the perfect candidate to get rocked when Paul Goldschmidt and company come to Coors Field to see him for a second time.