Sunday Notes: Rangers Rookie Grant Anderson is Glad He Stuck With It

Grant Anderson had an especially-memorable MLB debut earlier this season. Pitching in Detroit on May 30, the 26-year-old Texas Rangers right-hander entered the game in the fifth inning and promptly fanned Zach McKinstry to strand an inherited runner at second base. He then returned to the mound in the sixth and struck out the side. In the seventh, he induced a line-out followed by a pair of punch-outs. In the eighth, yet another strikeout was followed by a Miguel Cabrera single that ended his evening. All told, the sidearming rookie had faced nine batters and fanned seven of them. He was credited with the win in Texas’s 10-6 victory.

He could have been working in a rubber plant instead. On two occasions — one of them as recently as this spring — Anderson seriously considered giving up baseball. More on that in a moment.

Five years ago, Anderson was at home in Beaumont, Texas following the draft with his father and twin brother Aidan [who now pitches in the Rangers system] when the Seattle Mariners took him in the 21st round with the 628th-overall pick. A half dozen or so calls and texts had come earlier. The Brewers, Mets, and a few other teams had reached out to say, “Hey, what do you think about this number and this round?” That none of them actually pulled the trigger wasn’t a matter of high demands. As Anderson put it, “I was coming from a small place and just wanted to play pro ball, so it didn’t really matter to me what the money was. I guess they all just found a better guy for those spots.”

Seattle and Colorado had shown the most interest prior to draft day, and had the former not drafted him, the latter presumably would have. The Rockies called to say they were planning to take him in the 21st round, only to have the Mariners do so a handful of picks in front of their own.

Primarily a catcher growing up, Anderson became a full-time pitcher during his freshman year at McNeese State. The transition obviously worked out — he’s now in the big leagues — but his road traveled wasn’t exactly smooth. Getting traded from Seattle to Texas 10 months after he was drafted was certainly unexpected, and just this spring he went backwards, going from Triple-A down to Double-A. And then there is the uncertainty of the minor-league grind.

“You find yourself thinking, ‘Will I ever get an opportunity?’ said Anderson, who has a 3.86 ERA in 16 appearances out of the Texas bullpen. “I was really close to retiring. I mean, when you’re married and starting a family [Anderson and his wife are expecting a child in September] you don’t necessarily want to keep playing ball for 30 grand a year, not when you can earn a lot more and provide for your family. Where I come from, there are a lot of refineries and you can get paid a lot. There are chemical plants and rubber factories. The gulf coast of Texas is just straight refineries of everything you can imagine.”

He first gave serious thought to leaving baseball following the 2021 season, which he called “the worst year of my baseball life.” Frustrated, he found himself questioning whether the game was going to allow him to go any further, whether he was simply not good enough. His family thought otherwise. They assured him that he was talented, and if he gave it another shot, it could work out.

Much the same happened this spring.

“Coming into camp, I thought I’d done well enough to get a non-roster invite, but it didn’t happen,” Anderson explained. “Then I got sent down from Triple-A. It was one of those things, again, where you wonder, ‘What’s the likelihood of me getting there? I was a low-round guy who didn’t get a lot of money, and there was no notoriety; nobody knows who I am. What are the odds that they’re going to call up the sidearm guy from McNeese State over a guy who maybe went to an SEC school? There was a lot of mental stuff I had to get through. Luckily I stuck with it. I’m blessed to be here.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Lou Brock went 5 for 29 against Joe Nuxhall.

Ted Kluszewski went 6 for 13 against Cloyd Boyer.

Clete Boyer went 1 for 27 against Gary Nolan.

Ken Boyer went 36 for 77 against Jim O’Toole.

Vada Pinson went 10 for 14 against Milt Pappas.

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Brennan Bernardino is late-round success story. Drafted 785th overall in 2014 by the Cincinnati Reds out of California State University, Dominguez Hills, the 31-year-old southpaw debuted with a cup of coffee with the Seattle Mariners last summer, and now he’s excelling in Boston. Claimed off waivers by the Red Sox in April, Bernardino has taken the mound 25 times and logged a 2.51 ERA over 28-and-two-third innings. His lone decision dwells in the win column.

His draft experience was stressful. As the third day was set to unfold, his signing scout told him that there was a good chance he’d be the Reds’ first choice that afternoon if they decided to go with a lefty. With 19 teams making 26th-round picks before Cincinnati’s turn came around, Bernardino was on tenterhooks.

“Two lefties got drafted before me that round, so by the time we got down the road and the Reds called, I was really nervous,” recalled Bernardino. “They said that they didn’t have much money for me, but did I still want to go in the draft? I was like, ‘Let’s do it; I’m ready to play pro ball. Let’s go.’”

The Reds were the only team that contacted Bernardino during the 2014 draft, and nine years later he’s the highest of their picks currently on a big-league roster. Moreover, Cincinnati’s picks that year have a combined 2.1 WAR, with Bernardino accounting for 0.5 of the meager total.

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A unique official-scoring play occurred at Camden Yards on June 27. With two out in the ninth innings and Cincinnati leading 3-1, Baltimore’s Ryan O’Hearn was on first base with the tying run at the plate. With the Reds not bothering to hold him on, O’Hearn took off and cruised into second without a throw. It was a classic case of defensive indifference. Until it wasn’t.

Presumably thinking that the pitch had been fouled off — it was a clean swing and miss — O’Hearn began trotting back to first base, going maybe 15 feet before abruptly changing direction and scrambling back to second. By now the pitcher had the ball, the catcher having casually tossed it back to him after the whiff, and a good throw would have easily retired O’Hearn for the final out of the game. Instead, the throw was errant and O’Hearn was safe at second.

A moment later, Reds TV analyst Chris Welsh astutely asked, “Does that change the defensive indifference call?” In other words, would O’Hearn now be credited with a stolen base?

Checking the game log the following morning, I learned that Welsh was correct in his assumption, yet there was no stolen base. Rather, the official scorer charged O’Hearn with a caught stealing and gave the pitcher a throwing error. This from what was initially going to be a run-of-the-mill defensive indifference. You never know what you’re going to see in a baseball game.

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Last Sunday’s column included my opinion — one shared by many — that official scorers are far too often ruling hit when they should be ruling error. As a friend subsequently pointed out, I should have included the fact that the percentage of errors per game across MLB has never been lower. Moreover, a new low has been set in each of the last three seasons. Have fielders gotten better? Given what I’ve seen live and on video, I’m not so sure they have.

On a related note, caught-stealing percentages have also never been lower. This is of course due to rule changes implemented to jumpstart what had increasingly become a dormant running game. It’s working as planned; stolen bases per game is at its highest mark since 1997.

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A quiz:

Which player has the most extra-base hits in New York Yankees franchise history?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Fred Decker and Danny Litwhiler were inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday. Decker, who died in 2011, spent three decades at Western Michigan University and is the winningest baseball coach in Mid-American Conference history. Litwhiler was a big-league outfielder from 1940-1951, then went on to become the longtime head coach at Michigan State University where his players included Steve Garvey, Kirk Gibson and Rick Miller.

Mario Guerrero, an infielder who logged 578 hits in a big-league career that spanned 1973-1980, died on July 2 at age 73. Originally signed by the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Republic, Guerrero was swapped to the Boston Red Sox in June 1972 as the PTBNL in the infamous Sparky LyleDanny Cater trade.

Neal Traven was announced as this year’s winner of SABR’s Bob Davids Award. More info can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Lou Gehrig, with 1,190 extra-base hits. Babe Ruth had 1,189, while Mickey Mantle is third in franchise history with 952.

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Which opposing teams have most impressed Mark Kotsay this season? The Oakland Athletics manager named a pair of first-place squads when I asked him that question prior to yesterday’s game… but only after poking a little fun at an old friend who is at the helm in Colorado.

“That’s a deep question; it’s probably one [that requires] more thought,” said Kotsay. “If I was Bud Black, I’d sit here for another 30 seconds to a minute. But Tampa, obviously. They’re an impressive baseball team. They’re athletic. They have power. They run the bases really well. They’ve been hurt with a little bit of injury on the mound, but in terms of well-rounded and roster construction, I’d say Tampa is that team. They’re an obvious one. Atlanta, as well.

“I was impressed with the Cubs when they came through,” said Kotsay, essentially answering my planned followup question before I had a chance to ask it. “We maybe caught them hot, but their younger talent… they pitched really well against us. That’s a team that we don’t talk about a ton, but they played really well against us. The Reds, as well. That was prior to [Elly] De La Cruz getting on that roster, and it was without [Joey] Votto, but they played pretty good baseball.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Yuki Matsui got his 18th save of the season, and the 215th of his NPB career, on Friday as the Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 6-5. Of interest to multiple MLB teams, the 27-year-old left-hander has a 0.66 ERA and 14 hits allowed to go with 38 strikeouts in 27-and-a-third innings.

SoftBank southpaw Livan Moinelo, himself a presumed MLB target, was recently removed from the team’s active roster due to reported “left elbow arthritis.” The 27-year-old Cuba native is 3-0 with five saves and a 0.98 ERA on the season.

Marwin Gonzalez is slashing .232/.269/.403 with nine home runs in 227 plate appearances for the Orix Buffaloes. The 34-year-old veteran of 11 MLB seasons signed with the NPB club in February.

Raúl Alcántara is 8-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 16 starts for the KBO’s Doosan Bears. The 38-year-old Dominican-born right-hander pitched for the Oakland A’s in 2016 and 2017.

Si-hwan Roh is slashing .315/.397/.564 with the Hanwha Eagles. The 22-year-old third baseman is the KBO’s co-leader in home runs, with 19.

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Earlier this week I ran a Twitter poll asking which of three Detroit Tigers pitchers not on the injured list — Jason Foley, Alex Lange, and Michael Lorenzen — is most deserving of an All-Star berth. I included “other” as a fourth option. (Thanks to our friends at Tigers blog Bless You Boys for retweeting the poll; their doing so increased the number of Detroit-centric fans casting votes.)

The results were telling. Lorenzen, who was chosen to represent the Tigers in the All-Star game, finished dead last with only 6.2% of support. “Other” got 7.4%, while Lange garnered 32% and Foley came out on top with 54.5%.

I’m inclined to agree with the majority. Lorenzen, a starter who was in the process of throwing five scoreless innings while the poll was running, has a 4.03 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, and 66 strikeouts in 87 innings. Foley, who has pitched in a team-high 38 games, has three saves to go with a 2.09 ERA, a 2.16 FIP, and 34 strikeouts in 38-and-two-thirds innings.

All-Star or not, Foley has quietly emerged as Detroit’s most-reliable reliever. He was featured here at FanGraphs a year ago this week.

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FARM NOTES

The Chattanooga Lookouts steamrolled the Rocket City Trash Pandas 29-3 on Thursday night. Cincinnati’s Double-A team was led by 25-year-old North York, Ontario native Andy Yerzy who went 4-for-5 with two home runs and nine RBIs.

Ethan Salas is slashing .266/.385/.514 with six home runs, including four in his last four games, over 135 plate appearances with the Low-A Lake Elsinore Storm. One month after celebrating his 17th birthday, the left-handed-hitting catcher is No. 2 on our recently-released San Diego Padres Top Prospects list.

Tanner Schobel is slashing .285/.361/.480 with 13 home runs in 321 plate appearances with the High-A Cedar Rapids Kernels. No. 16 on our Minnesota Twins Top Prospects list, the 22-year-old infielder was drafted 68th-overall last year out of Virginia Tech.

Devereaux Harrison is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 50 innings for the High-A Vancouver Canadians. The 22-year-old right-hander was drafted in the ninth round last year out of Long Beach State by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Robert Gasser leads all Triple-A pitchers in strikeouts with 95. Acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers from the San Diego Padres in last summer’s Josh Hader trade, the 24-year-old left-hander has a 3.94 ERA and a 3.84 FIP in 80 innings with the Nashville Sounds. Gasser was featured here at FanGraphs a few weeks before the deadline deal went down.

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Hitters are allowed one timeout per plate appearance, and they frequently take it once they reach a two-strike count. That’s understandable — a reset in a less-favorable count makes sense — but at the same time, is the pitcher actually gaining more of an advantage? If so, do certain pitchers, and/or certain scenarios, make the timeout an even worse idea? I posed these questions to a handful of players, coaches, and executives, and the consensus was… well, there really wasn’t one. That said, two suppositions stood out.

If there is a worst time for a hitter to call a timeout with two strikes, it would likely be when a pitcher is laboring, be that in a long inning or long at-bat. Giving the hurler his own breather and reset might not be the best idea.

A statistical study wouldn’t necessarily yield a clear answer — especially without a large sample size — as determining cause-and-effect as opposed to randomness would be a challenge. There would be noise in the data.

What are chances that any MLB teams are tracking this?

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

John Thorn wrote about William Hoy and other deaf players in MLB history for MLB.com’s pioneer series.

Andscape’s Justice B. Hill wrote about how Satchel Paige’s MLB debut 75 years ago changed baseball forever.

cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto gave us the inside story of how Larry Doby broke the American League’s color line 76 years ago.

NPR’s Anthony Kuhn looked at how Shohei Ohtani’s hometown in Japan knew he was a prodigy since Little League.

Jonathan Mayo did a mock draft at MLB Pipeline.

Cincinnati Reds prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand is the best bad-ball hitter in the minors, and J.J. Cooper presented statistical proof at Baseball America (subscription required).

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Atlanta Braves hitters went into yesterday having combined for an .836 OPS this season. The franchise’s modern-era full-season record is .824, which was set in 2003.

White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease has made an AL-high 19 starts and has a record of 3-3. He has no-decisions in each of his last eight starts, a stretch that includes five games where he allowed two or fewer runs.

Caleb Hamilton, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Thursday, is 1-for-23 with five walks and 19 strikeouts in his brief MLB career. The 28-year-old catcher’s 65.5% strikeout rate is the highest in history for non-pitchers with at least 25 plate appearances.

Craig Kimbrel has faced the Tampa Bay Rays 30 times and allowed 12 hits, and six walks, with 57 strikeouts in 30-and-two-thirds innings. He’s surrendered three runs and logged 18 saves against the AL East club.

Frog Holsey went 10-7 for the Negro National League’s Chicago American Giants in 1929, while Yellow Horse Morris went 8-4 and Steel Arm Davis hit a team-high five home runs. Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell, who spent most of the season with the St. Louis Stars, appeared in four games with the American Giants.

The Cincinnati Reds drafted Johnny Bench 36th-overall in 1965. Catchers taken before the Hall of Famer that year were Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont, Ken Plesha, Randolph Kohn, Ken Rudolph, Donald Johnson, and Dick Horton.

The Oakland Athletics beat the California Angels 1-0 in 20 innings on today’s date in 1971. Vida Blue went the first 11 innings for the winning side, striking out 17 batters and issuing no walks.

The American League steamrolled the National League 12-0 at Fenway Park on today’s date in 1946. Ted Williams went 4-for-4 with two home runs, a walk, and five RBIs.

Players born on today’s date include Coot Veal, a shortstop who played for three teams, primarily the Detroit Tigers, from 1958-1963. A native of Deepstep, Georgia, Orville Inman Veal hit his lone big-league home run off of Chicago White Sox southpaw Billy Pierce, whose 211 career wins are tied with Bob Welch for fourth most among Michigan-born pitchers. Only Jim Kaat (283), Frank Tanana (240), and John Smoltz (213) have more.

Also born on today’s date was Lou Polli, a right-handed pitcher whose big-league career comprised five appearances with the St. Louis Browns in 1932, and 19 appearances with the New York Giants in 1944. A native of Baverno, Polli was the first of seven players born in Italy to have reached the majors.





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.

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Carson Kahla
9 months ago

Grant Anderson may not be the greatest but he has been a godd*mn miracle for the rangers bullpen. Also to put into context how bad the bullpen was at one point, Andersons second ever MLB appearance was in the 8th inning with a 1 run lead.

Dan Greermember
9 months ago
Reply to  Carson Kahla

He should never be allowed to try to clean up another Josh Sborz mess, though. 6 hits and 4 inherited runners scored the last two times he’s relieved Sborz.