Throwing Heat Week 25

With only one week left of the season, this will be my last Throwing Heat article! I decided for the last installment to dive into two players on a deeper level and what you can expect for them next season. I really enjoyed this weekly piece and I hope it was useful to you all. We will likely bring this article back next season but in the meantime, the wonderful Fangraphs staff and I will certainly be writing throughout the offseason. I hope most of you won your leagues and I hope us Fangraphs writers helped you do so!

Ian Anderson, ATL

Last three starts: 3.57 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 34.8 K%

Ian Anderson has had a rather successful season in 2021. Although he missed some time and will likely end up in the 130 inning range he did produce a 3.60 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. I think what’s important here is Ian Anderson making any strides compared to last season?

Last season most people knew Anderson’s strikeout rate wasn’t going to stay at 29.7%, it just wasn’t feasible with an 11.9 SwStr%. Typically you want to double a pitcher’s SwStr%, add two to that number and that’s what a pitcher’s K% should be. SwStr% and K% typically always go together unless a pitcher excels at getting called strikes. Even with the expected strikeout rate dip he still saw regression in a lot of areas. His contact numbers all went the wrong way, by that I mean his ground ball rate dipped, his hard-hit rate against rose, and his xERA nearly doubled. 

It seems that for Ian Anderson to improve he needs a pitch that makes hitters want to swing outside of the zone. All three of his pitches in his four-seam, changeup, and curveball, none of them have an O-Swing% over 31.4%. You want to see a pitcher have at least one pitch around 40%. I think until he starts throwing outside of the zone more whether it be his changeup or curveball we won’t see Ian Anderson putting up big-time strikeout numbers.

Anderson is a good pitcher, don’t get me wrong but with a young pitcher you want to see them making advancements in what they do and he is going the wrong way. When it comes to next season he might be a pitcher I stay away from because I am sure there are a lot of Ian Anderson lovers still out there.

Joe Ryan, MIN

Last three starts: 1.59 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, 33.9 K%

Joe Ryan only has four starts this season but has been beyond impressive with a 2.45 ERA and 32.1 K%. In such a small sample it is hard to tell what is truly real and what isn’t but we are going to try anyway. 

Looking at all ERA indicators this seems to be somewhat legit. He has a FIP of 2.48, xERA of 2.22, and SIERA of 3.17. The .167 BABIP obviously isn’t sustainable but the 68.6 LOB% shows a little bit of bad luck. His HR/9 and HR/FB rate are stupid low and will likely regress based on his minor league numbers. His 31.2 K% and 12.5 SwStr% show some strikeout regression is coming but he should still be able to keep that number in the mid 20 range with an overall 30.0 CSW%. I don’t mean to spit stats at you but I think we see some contradicting stuff here and we want to try and figure out what kind of pitcher he looks like. Something we will wrap up with at the end.

Ryan throws mainly four pitches in a four-seam, slider, changeup, and curveball. All of them have been insanely good at inducing weak contact. The highest wRC+ allowed on one of his pitches is just 67. What really makes his arsenal so good is his slider. Overall it has produced a 43.8 O-Swing% and 18.9 SwStr% with just a 17 wRC+ against. What makes Joe Ryan’s pitches so great is his exceptional command. He consistently places his four-seam up and in against right-handed hitters and then hits the bottom left corner of the zone with his slider. Then he switches it up with his changeup which comes down and in against right-handers. He comes at you at every corner and makes it extremely difficult for a hitter to make contact. The craziest part? He never misses in the middle. He only misses on the outside.

When it comes to next season I think Joe Ryan could be a sneaky pitcher to grab late in drafts. His command could carry him to a solid season and he has the arsenal to succeed. We obviously don’t expect a sub-three ERA from him but a 3.50 ERA with a 25.0% strikeout rate seems possible. 

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Ryan’s success is a classic example of hitters not knowing Ryan. Rookies on top of their games can come up and mess around while hitters figure them out. Ryan is taking advantage of this. By next season everyone will have his tapes. I don’t mean he won’t be successful, he will. Just not this successful.

Travis L
Travis L

I agree it’s unlikely he is CY candidate next year (which is what his pro-rated numbers would indicate). However, I object to your narrative – if/when regression happens, it’s not possible to know if it’s because of hitters studying him or just plain boring regression.