We couldn’t see it since the Brewers’ first Cactus League game of the year wasn’t televised, but Chase Anderson says he’s made some changes to his delivery over the winter in hopes of finding the type of success he saw two years ago.
At the risk of reading too much into spring training results — especially those after Brewers pitchers were only able to get in one live batting practice session before taking the mound yesterday, due to the weather — it seems the mechanical tweaks are still a work in progress.
In his first outing of the spring, Anderson allowed a leadoff single to Jason Heyward and a two-run home run to former MVP Kris Bryant on a hanging curveball before settling down and finishing the inning with three straight outs, including a strikeout to end his day.
Since there was no TV for the game, Adam McCalvy has a description on what we can expect the next time we can actually see Anderson step onto the mound:
Over the winter, Anderson conferenced several times with new Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook and bullpen coach Steve Karsay. Together, they kicked around ideas to create a more fluid motion and keep better balanced on his back leg to create the downhill plane so vital to his 2017 breakthrough.
Among the pitchers he studied was fellow Texan Nolan Ryan, who lifted his arms over his head in his windup.
“Now when I’m over my head [with my hands], I look down at my foot and make sure it’s full contact with the rubber,” Anderson said. “With that, I feel like my hips are able to go down the slope and I’m able to get that direct line toward home plate, and I’m able to get that direct line. Which is going to help me execute in the strike zone and as I expand later in in counts.”
That feels like a lot to think about all at once, but that’s why getting reps with that new delivery this spring will be important — and why we should probably look the other way on what the results are for the time being. More important will be what his location and velocity — which fell almost a full mile per hour last year as he struggled to get back to his old mechanics. Losing that extra zip while he still worked the same parts of the strike zone he had the year before ended up leading to a HR/FB rate that spiked from 8.6% in 2017 to 15.4% last year.
Despite getting pulled from the Brewers’ rotation in the closing weeks of last season and being left off the postseason roster altogether, Anderson told reporters he believes he has a rotation spot locked down, assuming he gets through the next month without any injury hiccups. And, for what it’s worth, despite the home run it seems like he’s happy with the initial outing. From Tom Haudricourt’s notes after Saturday’s game:
“I felt great out there, actually,” said Anderson. “I was staying on line toward the plate; everything was directional. I was in the (strike) zone. That’s the goal for the first outing. I made a little bit of a mistake against a good hitter but other than that, I felt great.”
Projection systems aren’t thrilled with the prospects of Anderson’s performance turning around this season, but the computers may be a little freaked out by the home runs allowed last year, and they have no way to account for things like mechanical changes.
It remains to be seen how tweaks like this will work out, but it’s clear Anderson wasn’t happy with the way last season went, even if he was largely a fine starter once he got past his first inning woes. If he can get back closer to his 2017 results, it will go a long way in making a lot of people feel better about what could still be a largely unproven group of starting pitchers heading into the new season.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs