Chase Anderson joined the Brewers prior to the 2016 season as a part of the return in the Jean Segura trade with Arizona. He had been a fine back-end starter during his first two seasons in the big leagues, and was more of the same for Milwaukee in 2016 - he threw 151.2 innings with a 4.39 ERA, right around league average. Despite that, the 29 year old entered 2017 fighting for a spot in the starting rotation along with several other pitchers. Anderson did make the Opening Day rotation, but only after an injury forced Matt Garza to the disabled list a few days before the regular season began.
As the season got into full swing, it became clear that Chase was not the same pitcher that we saw during his first year in the Cream City. Most notably, Anderson had suddenly gained quite a bit more oomph on his fastball. During his first three big league seasons, Anderson’s fastball averaged 91.9, 92.6, and 92.1 MPH. In 2017, his heater was up to an average of 93.7 MPH, touching as high as 97 MPH.
Chase also made some adjustments to the rest of his repertoire during the past season. Known as a pitcher with a great changeup, Anderson actually reduced the usage of his cambio quite drastically in 2017, throwing it 15.6% of the time while it had been used an even 24% of the time in 2016. Anderson increased his reliance on his curveball and on his cutter, which was a pitch that he had actually shelved during most of last year. The re-addition and mastery of the cut fastball was key to Chase’s success, and Craig Counsell credited him several times throughout the year for becoming a legitimate four-pitch hurler.
With the tweaks to his approach and improved velocity, Anderson enjoyed quite the unexpected breakout in 2017. He improved his strikeout rate by nearly 5% and whiffed a career-best 8.47 batters per nine innings while also cutting his walk rate by about 1%. Previously plagued with issues with the home run, Chase allowed just 14 dingers in 141.1 innings this season after coughing up 28 long balls during his 2016 campaign. He was able to hold opponents to a .217 batting average against and he reduced the rate of hard contact he allowed by nearly 5% from 2016. Anderson’s 1.09 WHIP for the season was far-and-away the best mark of his MLB career.
Anderson missed about 7 weeks of action in the middle of the regular season with an oblique injury he sustain while batting, but he still managed to make 25 starts and toss 141.1 innings for the Brewers in 2017. In that time, he was touched for only a 2.74 ERA - the 5th-lowest total in the league among pitchers with at least 140 innings. In fact, this season was only the 5th time since 2000 that a Brewers pitcher has worked 100+ innings with a sub-3.00 ERA, as Anderson joined Jeff D’Amico (2000), Ben Sheets (2004), CC Sabathia (2008), and Junior Guerra (2016) in select company.
Neither FIP nor DRA agree that Anderson was the “ace” that his ERA said he was in 2017, but both still saw him as a well-above average pitcher. Chase checked in with a DRA- of 86 and a FIP- of 81, though it’s worth nothing that the .265 BABIP he allowed was 26 points below his career average.
In terms of wins above replacement, Chase tallied 4.0 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR, and 2.4 WARP across his 25 starts this season. That was good for an average of 3.23 WAR, which tied him with Domingo Santana for the 3rd-most WAR among the 2017 Brewers.
Chase was voted by you the reader as the #5 MVBrewer in 2017. He’s still under club control for another three seasons via arbitration, and when paired with Zach Davies should give our beloved local nine a reliable 1-2 punch atop the rotation heading into what ought to be a competitive 2018 season.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference