Brett Anderson is one of the familiar faces striking a deal to return to the Brewers, earning a one-year $2.5 million contract last week.
Anderson adds overall depth, a veteran presence, and a lefthand to the rotation. The Brewers have many reasonable candidates for the starting rotation’s tail end, and Anderson is likely to find a home there. An entire spring training is ahead of opening day, but Milwaukee can reassemble the Woody / Burnes / Houser / Anderson / Lindblom rotation, which ranged from serviceable to inspired in 2020.
Anderson put up a solid yet unremarkable 2020, producing a 4.21 ERA despite an unimpressive Statcast Profile. Reliably getting outs without remarkable stuff is Anderson’s thing. You’re not going to see many strikeouts from him, but he boasts a good sinker and a good cutter. He maintains a 4.06 ERA with a ground ball percentage of 56.8%. He walks very few batters, only 5% of those he faced in 2020, which puts him among the top 10% of pitchers in the league.
He maintained a solid 2020 as a groundball pitcher, even with subpar up-the-middle defense behind him. In 2020, despite leading MLB in ground ball rates, the Brewers ranked right around the bottom third of double plays by team. Anderson was the team’s single biggest contributor to the 2020 ground ball rate with a 57.7% GB%. With Lorenzo Cain’s return to center field and Kolten Wong’s presence at second base, expect Anderson to initiate more outs, more double plays, and fewer hits.
That is, of course, if he remains healthy. Anderson is 33, and most of his career has been impacted by injuries. Over the years, he has had Tommy John Surgery, two operations on his back, and a series of issues with his arms, hands, and feet. He’s pitched in 30 or more games in 3 seasons of his 12-year major league career. That number alone shouldn’t raise any alarms for a solid but not marquee pitcher like Anderson, but guess how many seasons he’s pitched in 20 or more games in his 12-year career? Also 3.
That’s not to say you should expect an injury from Anderson, but it’s likely enough to envision a rotation with him on the IL or as a swing starter. Thankfully, he adds depth to a Brewers pitching staff replete with potential and swing starters, making the acquisition even more sensible. The Brewers get a solid veteran pitcher if he’s healthy and have plenty of talent waiting in the wings if he’s not.
In the unfortunately likely event of an Anderson injury, the Brewers possess multiple acceptable stand-ins. Of course, we’re perennially hoping for a breakout season from the talented Freddy Peralta, who has historically pitched better out of the bullpen. Even if the Brewers want a lefty to fill out their right-hand dominant pitching staff, there are a couple of notable lefties who could stand in for Anderson. Eric Lauer will be hoping for a bounceback season after 2020. He held a lot of promise but produced a 13.06 ERA. Brent Suter has pitched well out of the bullpen but could return as a starter in 2021. The Brewers, who typically prioritize utility over convention, need little encouragement to use their depth. Still, they further hedge their bet on Anderson with minor leaguers Ethan Small and Aaron Ashby, who are expected to get major league innings at some point in 2021.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Baseball-Reference