Chase Anderson has proven to be more than a pleasant surprise in 2017 – he has been a god-send for a Brewers pitching staff that has at times appeared futile. Acquired along with prospect Isan Diaz and MLB infielder Aaron Hill during the off-season, Anderson was inserted into the starting rotation. He had an up-and-down season, finishing with a 9-11 record, a 4.31 ERA, and a 1.37 WHIP. Advanced metrics rated Anderson’s performance as that of a below average starting pitcher, displayed by his 1.1 WAR (wins above replacement) and his 98 ERA+ (100 is league average).
2017 has been a completely different story. Anderson has pitched to a 5-2 record with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, and his ERA+ stands at 157 – well above average. Highlighted by a near no-hitter on May 27th against Arizona, Anderson is starting to look like a bonafide ace at age 29. How has Anderson achieved this remarkable turnaround?
The one area he has seemingly transformed is his pitch usage. Anderson has doubled the usage of his cutter and increased the usage of his changeup. While on the surface this may not seem significant, it completely changes his repertoire and challenges hitters to alter their approach. While these two pitches have been his two least valuable according to FanGraphs, his other two pitches (a four-seam fastball and a curveball) rate much higher in effectiveness this year than last. One can reasonably guess that he is setting these two pitches up with his changeup and cutter, thus making them more effective. The end result? Anderson’s 2017 success.
These adjustments have had a profound effect on hitters. The hard contact rate of batter’s facing Anderson is down by 3%, a notable decrease. In addition, Anderson is giving up the fewest home runs of his career. While in 2016 he allowed 1.7 HR/9 innings, he is allowing a measly 0.6 HR/9 in 2017, which is the 3rd best rate in the league. An improvement like that is not random, especially when pitching half of your games in a home run friendly stadium like Miller Park.
Finally, this analysis would be incomplete without revisiting WAR (wins above replacement). Thus far in 2017, Anderson has accounted for approximately 2.2 WAR. Remember, Anderson logged 1.1 WAR in 2016. What does this mean? Anderson has ALREADY given the Brewers TWICE the value he did in 2017! Chase Anderson is simply pitching like an ace, the one the Brewers have greatly missed over the past couple seasons.
Expect to hear Chase Anderson’s name in the conversation to receive an all-star bid come July. If he stays true to the adjustments he has made, it seems as though Anderson’s success will continue, and that can only mean good things for the Brewers in their path to contention.