Yesterday I gave up and decided it was finally time to cut Dan Haren and his 10.03 ERA over the last 30 days from my FSWA team. When looking for a replacement, I sorted by ESPN’s player rater performance over the last 30 days and found Chase Anderson as the best available pitcher according to that metric. I didn’t know much about Anderson other than the fact that he’s from Wichita Falls and played club ball with a friend of mine. So I thought Anderson was worth a closer look.
As Carson Cistulli noted in June, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Anderson failed to see the majors at all this year. The average of the Steamer and ZiPS preseason projections had him pitching just one inning this year. But here we are almost 75 innings later and Anderson has a 3.19 ERA, the 38th best ERA in the league among the 133 starters with 70+ innings. Unfortunately, his ERA is really the only thing above average that shows up on my custom dashboard. His SIERA of 3.91 is just below the league average of 3.89, and his 12.4 K-BB% is very near the league average of 12.1%. There’s nothing wrong with league average. And in the league in which I was considering picking him up, a league average starter can be useful. But things aren’t as rosy as they seem when you see the 3.19 ERA.
Perhaps the strangest and most troubling thing about Anderson is his issue keeping balls in the park. His 1.35 HR/9 is the 13th worst mark among those 133 starters with 70+ innings. That’s the troubling part. What’s strange (and additionally troubling) is that his strand rate is very high despite his difficulty limiting home runs. At 82.1%, he’s stranding runners at the eighth highest rate among the same 133 starters. As a rudimentary way of explaining why it’s strange for a pitcher to have a high home run rate along with a high strand rate, starters in the 133 pitcher sample with a better than average strand rate have a HR/9 that’s almost a tenth of a point lower than those with a below average strand rate. This, of course, makes sense. When a pitcher gives up a home run, it’s impossible to strand any runners on base when the home run is hit. If you give up more home runs, this will probably have a negative affect on your strand rate long term. To be fair, Anderson’s home ball park is contributing to this problem significantly as his HR/9 at home is 1.80 compared to 0.81 on the road, but he’s not going anywhere.
Digging into his repertoire a bit, Anderson throws a fourseam fastball, sinker, curve and change all pretty regularly (each at least 18% of the time per BrooksBaseball.net). His sinker and curve get ground balls at above average rates, which is good since those two pitches have the highest ground ball rates league wide. And his swinging strike rates with his change (24.17%) and curve (16.91%) are well above average as well (13.7%, 10.5%, respectively). That’s what you call good news.
Unfortunately, his fastball just isn’t that good. He’s averaging just under 91 mph with the pitch, which is slightly below league average. Opposing hitters have an ISO of .303 against his fastball, and it has a -1.86 pitch value per 100 pitches. Eesh. By comparison, opposing hitters have an ISO of just .106 against his sinker. He has used his sinker more and his fourseam less as the year has gone along, but it’s a trend that needs to continue. Thankfully, his change is so damn good to help offset the weak fastball. The well above average whiff and ground ball rates he generates with the pitch are reflected in his 3.50 pitch value per 100 pitches. He could stand to throw a few more of those as well.
So should you add Anderson? That is the question I’m asking after all. Well, it depends. There is a reason he’s owned in under 10% of ESPN.com ten-team leagues. He’s probably a league average-ish pitcher at the moment even though his stuff indicates he has upside. If you’re not running up against your innings cap, or if you don’t have an innings cap, Anderson makes for a very nice streaming option on the road where he has a 2.67 ERA. As things stand now, his next road start should be August 14 in Miami. Keep that on your radar.
But even if you’re in a deeper mixed league, I’m not sure Anderson is a great add for the entire stretch run. Only half of his ten starts are scheduled to be road starts, and one is at Coors, so there are only four good matchups in that respect. And of his remaining ten games, three are scheduled to be against Colorado and one against the Dodgers. Those teams are above average against right-handed pitching. All of the games against Colorado will be in a bad ballpark whether home or away, and the Dodgers are the second best team against RHP. Avoid. Really I’d just be adding Anderson late next week after his next start against the Rockies to use him in a three game stretch of at Miami, at Washington and home to San Diego. You’ve got a good chance to get three quality starts out of that. If you get them, don’t get greedy and/or scared of cutting a good player. Put him back on the wire and let someone else risk the tougher matchups in the final month.