I watched Brett Anderson carve up the Mariner offense (granted, one missing both Ichiro and Adrian Beltre) last night and was highly impressed, as is getting to be routine. If you watch this 21-year-old throw and don’t come away thinking that the A’s have found their future ace, you’re in the minority. Anderson is opening eyes every time he takes the hill.
The interesting thing about last night, though, is how much better his stuff was than the first time I saw him pitch this year. On April 10th, he gave up five runs in seven innings against the Mariners, only notching two strikeouts, while his fastball topped out at 93 and his breaking ball was in the low-80s. It was his major league debut, but the stuff was less than what had been reported in the minors.
Last night, it was better than I had heard coming into the year. Up to 97 with the fastball and a mid-80s hard breaking ball that no one could touch made him look utterly dominating. It wasn’t a one night fluke, either – here’s Anderson’s velocity chart for the season.
Whether the reason, Anderson didn’t leave spring training with his best stuff. His first six starts, he managed just 31 innings, gave up 28 runs, walked 10, and struck out 15. The stuff was just okay, the command wasn’t great, and he just didn’t look like a premier young pitcher.
Then, towards the end of May, the stuff shot up. Instead of averaging 90-91 with the fastball, he was suddenly at 93-94, topping out in the high-90s, and the slider went from 82 to 85. The results have been dramatically different since then:
18 starts, 109 innings, 49 runs, 29 walks, 102 strikeouts, 12 HR, 3.61 FIP.
That’s an impressive run for any pitcher, much less a 21-year-old rookie who had all of six starts at Double-A coming into the season. And, with the stuff taking a significant step forward, there’s a real reason for the improvement. His overall season line might not blow you away, but for the last three months, Anderson has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.
I have a feeling we’re going to be saying that about him for a long, long time. This kid is good.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.