You know about the Indians’ embarrassment of riches. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber is fantastic, Carlos Carrasco is sometimes more fantastic and Danny Salazar manages to be fantastic when you’re not paying attention. The Indians are loaded with ace-level talent, and, by the way, now there’s a new one. I didn’t see it coming, either.
Cody Anderson has a pretty good changeup, but it’s not the pitch that is opening eyes in Indians camp. According to Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the 25-year-old righty is throwing 95-97 mph with ease. His fastball has been, in a word, “Wham!”
In 15 starts last year — his first in the big leagues — Anderson averaged 92.1 with his heater.
We talk a lot about velocity during spring training. We’ve seen pitchers add velocity in the past, but with all due respect, this case feels exceptional. Cody Anderson might not actually make the Indians’ rotation out of camp, but he might’ve added something like three or four ticks. All of a sudden, Anderson’s repertoire looks a lot like Matt Harvey’s.
“Two errors. So, you take those two off the board. … But, his velocity’s good and he’s holding velocity. I did think he was up [in the strike zone] today more than he’s been.”
More talk about the fastball speed. And a specific note about maintaining fastball speed, which Anderson didn’t always do a season ago. I don’t mean to suggest the Indians would be liars, but it’d be nice to have some other evidence. And, wonderfully, Anderson has pitched one game this spring in front of PITCHf/x cameras. According to Brooks Baseball, last year, Anderson’s fastball averaged 93.3 mph. In a game a week and a half ago, it averaged 96.4 mph. That supports what Callaway said, and while one appearance is just one appearance, we’re looking at a potential boost of three miles per hour. Brooks reports its speeds a little faster than our player pages, but it’s the difference that’s important.
In his time in the majors last season, Anderson did get into the mid-90s every now and again. It’s not so much that he’s unlocked a new velocity level; really, he’s just throwing hard more consistently. His top velocity is harder, sure, but I think we’re seeing the results of countless hours of offseason conditioning. Anderson, I’d guess, is stronger than he once was, but he’s also better at repeating his mechanics. That would allow him to stay at a certain level for longer, which is one thing Francona was getting at. Roll your eyes if you want about players being in good shape, but Anderson should stand to benefit. This makes him a far more interesting pitcher.
As you know, we have pitch-type information stretching back to 2002. Since then, there are 2,358 cases of a pitcher throwing at least 10 innings as a starter in consecutive years. There are just seven cases of a pitcher increasing his average fastball velocity by at least three ticks. There are 46 cases of a pitcher increasing his average fastball velocity by at least two ticks. In many of these cases, the given pitcher was getting back to an old, established level. Anyhow, looking at those 46, they had an average fastball-velocity increase of 2.6 mph. On average they dropped their ERA- by 24 points, and they dropped their FIP- by 21 points. Fastball improvements tend to lead to pitcher improvements. Anderson has apparently made a huge fastball improvement.
For fun, I ran some pitch comps, using the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards. I used Anderson’s fastball readings from the spring game a week and a half ago, and I compared it to four-seam fastballs thrown by starters in 2015. I understand this could be making too much of one outing in spring, but it’s what we have to work with, and it’s not like PITCHf/x should be biased. One fastball stood out from all the others. The best comp for Anderson’s new fastball is Harvey’s.
You have, basically, the same average velocity and the same movement. That’s why Harvey’s comp score was half that of the next-closest heater. As always, I should remind you that similar pitches aren’t automatically similarly effective. Harvey’s fastballs is proven to be elite in the majors, but that speaks to Anderson’s new ceiling. Last year, Anderson improved his ability to locate. If he builds on that — and if he sustains this early arm strength — there could be very big things ahead.
This goes beyond the heaters. See, Harvey also throws a slider, a curve and a changeup. Anderson throws a cutter, a curve and a changeup. Anderson’s cutter flies as quickly as Harvey’s slider, and the shapes of the pitches are almost identical. There are further similarities in the other two pitches, and though Anderson’s curve is something of a work in progress, he has faith in his change. He had faith in his change last year, and now it’s more powerful. I’m really not exaggerating anything. When you break it down pitch to pitch, Anderson’s arsenal now looks like Harvey’s. Unlike Harvey, what Anderson hasn’t done is prove he can succeed with all four pitches in the majors, but it’s within his reach. Anderson’s ceiling has gotten higher. Anderson’s ceiling might rival that of any other 25-year-old.
I might as well note that Anderson and Harvey are both officially 6-foot-4. Not to belabor the point, but Anderson is interesting. You can’t ask for a much better comp than Harvey.
Because Anderson has options, he could start the year in Triple-A. And with 10 runs allowed in 12 spring innings, it’s not like he’s forcing his way into the rotation picture. The Indians might have him wait, but if this early stuff sustains, the wait shouldn’t be very long. I know, in discussing Scott Kazmir the other day, Andrew Friedman said he’d be worried if a pitcher in spring were throwing too hard. Kazmir’s fastball was recorded below its usual level, and Friedman was saying he didn’t care. I think it makes sense in that particular case, because Kazmir knows he’s got a job. Anderson’s been pitching for a job, and the competition has him working at 100%. It looks like Anderson might not win the competition. But it also looks like he’ll win plenty of future competitions.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.