In every offseason, the Dodgers have been mentioned at least as a guess favorite for seemingly every top-tier free agent. They are willing to go after elite players even when there is no real spot need, and annually enjoy one of the highest payrolls in the league. This winter should be no exception, with headlines eventually hooking up Dodgers with the best free proxy hits, including their impending free proxy. Tria Turnerand start a promotion at the highest level in the market.
Los Angeles doesn’t just follow the superstars of Freddy Freeman Mold, though. Chief of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, General Manager Brandon Gomez and the rest of the front office also benefit from payroll flexibility in another way. Although it’s not visual or exciting, Dodgers roll the dice on a lot of mid-level free customers. They signed nine players to major league deals last season alone, seven of whom signed a one-year guarantee. It was a mixture of high-level players who took the risk of injury or performance with more stable, less variable veterans to complete the roster.
Tyler Anderson It seems to fall into the last bucket. He’s been a constant arm in the back of the spin for most of his career. Anderson lost parts of the 2017 and 19 seasons with left knee issues, but he started a full 32-game slate in 2018 and hasn’t been on the injured list at any time in the past three years. That kind of reliability attracted the Dodgers team who opened the season with Dustin May on IL, Clayton Kershaw Out of the end of the season arm problem and Andrew Heaney (Another free pickup in lower class) Seeking a rebound after dismal 2021 campaign.
Reliable because he was taking the ball every fifth day, Anderson didn’t look like a potential collision arm. He only once posted an ERA below 4.00 in a season, and that was in his 2016 junior campaign. The southpaw team faced the challenging task of showing their home games at Coors Field during their first four years, but they also had mixed results in their split 2021 season. Between two other settings suitable for the shooter. Anderson played the year with the Pirates and Mariners, meeting at 4.53 ERAs over 167 runs. The nine-time clunker during the start of the season swelled from third to last of that number, but he held an era that hovered around 4.00 for most of the season.
Featuring a fastball averaging just under 91 mph, Anderson looked like the part of the back arm throwing hits and keeping teams in the ball game for five rounds. It earned him an $8 million guarantee from Los Angeles in spring training. This would have been a worthwhile investment overall if Anderson had repeated his 2021 numbers over another full season. Instead, he easily posted the best show of his career thus far.
Through 26 games, the previous first-round pick hit 154 2/3 innings from 2.73 ERA balls. He’s not hitting nor making ground balls with a particularly strong clip, with averages of 19% and 39.7% each below the league averages. However, Anderson improved on one aspect of his game in which he was already most effective: persuading opponents to offer to pitcher’s courts.
Despite the lack of eye-catching raw materials, Anderson was always adept at causing chases in stadiums outside the strike zone. The opponents went after 37.2% of offers thrown out of the zone last season, well above the league’s average of 31.5% for starters. It really pushed that staggering average even further, sending hitters chasing 38.9% of personal pitches this year.
This ability to get hitters swinging on bad pitches drives two key aspects of Anderson’s success. It helped him avoid free passes, with his 4.9% walk rate this season being among the best in the game. Anderson has always been adept at bombing the strike zone, and his combination of a lot of pitches inside Zone and the ability to get hitters to swing at potential balls often keeps him on advantageous counts. I’ve also worked to avoid particularly harmful contact, which opponents have a hard time squaring. Anderson ranks among the league’s top players at suppressing difficult contact, which has so far allowed him to avoid the house-management problems that have plagued him in the past.
Dodgers have already received more than they expected from a reasonably low-cost purchase. He might have a hard time breaking a watershed cycle that will surely appear Julius UreaKershaw, May and (if healthy) Tony Johnslin, but will likely be on the podium for some high leverage rounds in October in some capacities. Anderson is also looking to set himself up for a better pay day on his return trip to the open market, although how strong the interest will be will depend on how much teams buy into his ability to maintain this year’s elite results.
His lack of blazing speed or things that wobble and fail give him a thin margin for error. Even a modest dip in his ability to induce poor swing decisions could lead to results closer to a spinning arm back than this year’s All-Star format. After all, it’s not as if Anderson’s success came entirely out of thin air. He’s already been above average at persuading hitters to chase after him and making poor contact in seasons as his total production has been roughly the league average.
The 32-year-old has made adjustments to his kit this year which may have helped push his game forward. It has taken some speed from his change, which has become even more profound. As a result, hitters are rocking through it, and given the adjustments to his alteration, it’s probably no coincidence that he’s doing better than ever against right-handed hitters. That’s a promising improvement, but like his other gains this season, it’s a somewhat subtle improvement.
Put all the changes together, and Anderson will look like he’s even better now than he did. Is he a real talented 2.73 Era pitcher who will be an all-star yearly? Mostly not. His future form will likely fall somewhere between this year’s standout numbers and his 4.49 infantry mark posted from 2020 to 21. However, even if Anderson allows about three and a half to four earned runs for every nine runs, he is a valuable player – especially If he can continue to stay healthy and take the ball every fifth day.
In the name of Mark Bolchuk MLBTR observed last monthHowever, the Dodgers will at least have to consider the possibility of tagging Anderson with a qualifying show this off-season. It still seems like they chose not to bid, in recent seasons, it’s been between $18-19 million, but that’s a worthy consideration that is a testament to his solid year. At the very least, Anderson appears to have worked his way toward the first multi-year contract of his career when he returned to free agency.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.