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Which Ian Anderson Will We Get In The Second Half?

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It is just past the halfway point in the season, the All-Star Break, and Atlanta starting pitcher Ian Anderson has been a disappointment for fantasy baseball managers this season with a 4.79 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, and 79 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched.

The only real plus is despite how he has pitched, he has an 8-5 record on the season. We have seen Ian Anderson be dominant, especially in the playoffs, and we have seen him have his fair share of blowups as well.

With the ups and downs he has had, what can fantasy managers expect in the second half of 2022?

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Taking A Look Back

In 2020, Ian Anderson was called up and started six games from August 26th to September 24th. He was excellent over that stretch with a 3-2 record, a 1.95 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, 41 strikeouts, and 14 walks in 32.1 innings pitched.

Even in a small sample, when someone sees a 1.95 ERA and a 29.7% strikeout rate, they are going to be excited about that pitcher's future on their fantasy teams. Taking it a step further, in the playoffs that year, he made four starts and had a 0.96 ERA, a 31.2% strikeout rate, and a 1.13 WHIP. All aboard the hype train for 2021, right?

In 2021, Ian Anderson had an NFBC Main Event ADP of 92.91, going as early as 67th and as late as 134th, the 28th SP off the board and being drafted as a low-end SP2 or high-end SP3.

In 2021, he was solid with a 3.58 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, and 124 strikeouts in 128.1 innings pitched. He went into the postseason making four starts again, posting a 1.59 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

In 2022, he had a 164 ADP and was the 46th SP drafted, going as a solid SP3 or high-end SP4 this season. He is outside the top- 300 in fantasy baseball player value and is just inside the top-100 starting pitchers this season. It's been a disappointment.

 

What Changed?

Truthfully, some of the hype around Ian Anderson when he first came onto the scene was a little too high. In 2020, despite the 1.95 ERA, his xFIP was 3.45 and his walk rate was high at 10.1%.

In the playoffs, it was more of the same. He had a 0.96 ERA in 2020 but his xFIP was 4.09 and his walk rate was 13%. In 2021, his 1.59 ERA in the playoffs was backed by a 4.95 xFIP and 10.3% walk rate.

This is the danger of surface stats in such small sample sizes (35.2 IP). Anderson was not going to be someone with the upside that we wanted and his peripheral stats profiled him more as a serviceable starter for our fantasy teams.

Outside of some differences between actual stats and peripheral stats, there are some material differences as to why he has not performed well in 2022. Anderson is a four-seam fastball, change-up, and curveball pitcher.

In his career, he throws the four-seamer 47.5% of the time, the change-up 32.1% of the time, and the curve 20.3% of the time. The velocity on his four-seamer hasn't wildly changed. In 2020, it had an average velocity of 94.3 mph, in 2021 it was 94.6 mph, and in 2022 it has been 93.9 mph. The component that has changed is his spin rate.

Pitching is all about spin rate, velocity, and location working in tandem to create effective pitches. While Anderson's velocity is slightly down, his spin rate has dropped off on all of his pitches.

In 2020, his fastball had an average spin rate of 2046 rpm and an average release point of 7.3 feet off the mound. The xWOBA of that pitch was .240. In 2021, his fastball spin rate stayed consistent at 2045 and the average release point was 7.0 feet off the ground.

The xWOBA of the fastball was .284, which was up from 202 but still very low. In 2022, the spin rate dropped off. The average spin rate of his fastball this year is 1909 rpm, as noted the velocity is slightly down, and the xWOBA of that pitch is a high .386.

His off-speed pitches tell contrasting stories. His changeup velocity has been consistent: 88.1 mph this year and 88.1 mph last year. The 2022 xWOBA of the change up is .271 and in 2021 it was .291.

His curveball in 2020 had a 2098 rpm spin rate and .251 xWOBA and in 2021, the spin rate dropped to 1895 with the xWOBA at .309 which is definitely higher but still not too bad. In 2022, his curveball spin rate is 1826 and the wOBA on that pitch is .360.

Another pattern is his release points. Anderson is someone who tries to disguise his pitches by releasing them all at similar points. In 2020, his release points across the three pitches ranged from 7.1 feet on the curveball to 7.3 feet on the fastball.

In 2022, his release points across the three pitches range from 6.8 feet on the curveball to 6.9 feet on the fastball and change-up.

 

So What Now?

Anderson should be pitching better than he currently is, but he has the profile of a middle of a rotation pitcher. For fantasy purposes, he is someone who will get wins because he is on a contender, but there isn't anything underlying with his velocity or spin rate to show him as an elite fantasy player.

I am not a pitching guru but it seems like perhaps there is something with Anderson's mechanics he could fix to create a more effective fastball and curveball, but doing so would require a stint in the minor leagues.

Going forward, his stats should regress to his 4.27 xFIP and he is someone who will have a high 3.00 to low 4.00 ERA going forward and pick up more wins than losses in the second half if he stays at the big league level.

He is somewhat of a risk going forward of staying in the rotation as the Braves have Kyle Muller (2.96 ERA, 3.29 xFIP, 31.5% K%, 7% BB%) and Tucker Davidson (4.35 ERA, 3.20 xFIP, 29.7% K%, 7.7% BB%) pitching decently in Triple-A. Additionally, the Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos, has been known to make moves and he could ship some pieces for some rotation help too.

Anderson is a pitcher I bench in the short term in 15-team leagues, and I would only start in favorable matchups going forward until I see evidence of the effectiveness of his fastball improving. He is droppable in 12-team leagues, as in a 12-team league I can stream more favorable pitching matchups than what he is likely to produce going forward.



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