Bill Geivett says Brett Anderson will be successful pitching at Coors Field. The Colorado Rockies acquired the 26-year-old left-hander from the Oakland A’s this past December as part of a three-player deal. Hampered by injuries, Anderson appeared in just 16 games last season, and in 35 games during the past three years. When he’s healthy, he’s been effective. The former second-round pick has a 3.81 ERA and a 7.1 K-rate in 450 big-league innings.
Geivett knows those numbers, and more. His title in Colorado is senior vice president of major league operations. According to the Rockies media guide, he provides “direction and input with the roster.” Formerly the head of scouting and player development, he is entering his 14th season with the Rockies.
Geivett appeared on a panel at last weekend’s SABR Analytics Conference, in Phoenix. Afterwards, I had an opportunity to ask him about the acquisition of Anderson, and the impact of Coors Field on the organization’s decision-making process. Here is Geivett’s breakdown:
Geivett: “I think we’ve always had interest in [Anderson]. You have a feel for who’s out there and who you’d have interest in. We do a lot of legwork in determining whether, One: You can acquire that player, and Two: Making sure he’s a fit for what your needs are.
“[Colorado GM] Dan O’Dowd and [Oakland GM] Billy Beane have a close relationship, and there was conversation. As for who brought it up first, I don’t know. But that’s how it initiated.
“[Manager] Walt [Weiss] knows people who know Brett. That’s the way it works in this business. You deal with all sources of information to find out about players. A lot of it is talking to contacts, people in the game you trust.
“Our pro scouts played a huge role, but I think the bigger one was the medical staff. They had to give the OK on him before we pulled the trigger. We have a long history watching Brett. We saw him pitch in instructional league back when he was with Arizona. He and Cargo [Carlos Gonzalez] played against us in instructional league.
“Things we liked [about Anderson] are ground balls, strikes, and quick tempo. Those are important to us in terms of where we’re at with analytics. From pure scouting, it was his velocity and how we see his game translating to Coors Field. It may not be the same ground-ball rate he had with the A’s. Something you’ll see a lot of times in bigger ballparks, like Oakland, are higher fly-ball rates. It’s the old saying, “pitch the park.” When you’re behind in the count, you throw a four-seamer away and let him hit a fly ball as far as he can to center field. If you can locate it away, he can’t pull it. You tend to get more fly balls in that environment.
“In our scenario, we pitch more to ground balls. We thought with his game — as far as what his tools and characteristics are — you’ll see that translating to even more of an emphasis on ground balls. You’ll see his ground-ball rate go even higher. An example of that is Tyler Chatwood, who had a ground-ball rate that was more on the average of a major league pitcher, in Anaheim. With us, it’s really high. That’s the difference: the true focus on getting ground balls, where in other ballparks you don’t have to do that. For us, it’s not what his ground ball rate is, but what it can be.
“Brett throws a lot of sliders. He also has a curveball, a changeup, a four-seamer and a two-seamer. To me, the two-seamer is the one he’ll probably end up using more than he did in Oakland. I don’t think there’s a drastic change in terms of movement with the sinker [at Coors Field]. It might soften up a bit at altitude, but not very much. The slider might [be affected more] As far as true depth on breaking balls — you might get the same depth, but the quickness of action, late, is a little bit softened up.
“Straighter fastballs, or relying a lot on curveballs… typically, those are fly ball pitches. Those type of guys, unless they can adjust their game, are probably not a true fit for us.
“In 2007, we had a ground-ball rate that was second in baseball. We were second at home and second on the road. The idea is that guys who succeed at the major league level — they have their game, This is what they do. The guys who try to adjust to every single hitter that comes in the box, those are the guys who tend to struggle. The good ones can say ‘this is what I do with right handed hitters; this is what I do with lefties.’ They have a base with which to operate. That’s the true difference. We try to think of Coors Field as a different place, but it should be the same. However you pitch there to do well, you should take that on the road and perfect it. Then, when you come back in, it’s your game.
“Brett will pitch a little differently — maybe more two-seamers and a changeup over a curveball — but whatever change he makes, he needs to take on the road and pitch the same there Same for all our guys. That will translate back to having that same type of performance at home.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.