The Atlanta Braves got it right when they drafted Ian Anderson 3rd overall in the 2016 amateur draft
It is always a bit of a gamble when drafting a player out of high school high in the first round, but Ian Anderson seemed to show the gamble paid off by flying through the minor leagues to make his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves on August 26, 2020, at the age of 22.
Many will not forget his debut where he faced off against the juggernaut that was the 2020 Yankees and went 6 innings only giving up 1 hit, 1 run, and 2 walks while striking out 6.
We have seen other impressive performances from many young Atlanta Braves pitchers in the past, and have learned not to hold our breath.
Ian Anderson’s regular-season surface-level stats for the Atlanta Braves look great
Fortunately, with Anderson, he has so far had continued success. Over 30 games, including his 6 in 2020 where he ended the season with an ERA better than 142% better than league average, he has a 3.25 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 2.46 SO/W ratio, and a 1.201 WHIP.
It should be noted, that if you only look at 2021, those numbers do drop some. In 2021, Anderson produced a 3.58 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 2.34 SO/W ratio, and a 1.231 WHIP.
This drop-off is in large part due to Anderson giving up 4 earned runs 8 different times, and in September gave up 13 runs in only 26.2 innings. To be fair, 2021 was his first full season and Anderson did deal with shoulder inflammation in July.
Ian Anderson’s playoff composure is unmatched
Playoff Ian Anderson has been next level so far. Anderson is only 23 and has already made 8 playoff starts combining 35.2 innings of work. In 5 of those starts, he gave up 0 runs. Anderson has yet to give up more than 2 runs in a playoff start and has only given up 1 HR total.
Overall, Anderson has produced a 1.26 ERA, 1.83 FIP, 2.35 SO/W ratio, and a 1.037 WHIP in his postseason career.
If we look at win probability added (WPA), Anderson has accounted for 1.498 in just his 8 playoff games. That is effectively saying he alone accounted for approximately 1.5 wins. If playoff Anderson were to translate to regular season Anderson, he could be a front runner for the Cy Young Award.
What do Anderson’s peripherals say?
What Anderson has done to this point has been fantastic, but continuing to win is not based on what has already been done, but what is yet to come in the future.
Anderson showed signs of a long season catching up to him, but we can look at his peripherals to help make an educated guess on how much of his performance had luck involved (ballparks, defense behind him, high BABIP against, etc.).
The bottom line is, his peripherals are a bit concerning. Not that we have to worry about him eventually being sent back to the minors or anything like that, but it appears Anderson could be in for some regression.
In 2020, albeit in only 6 games, Anderson was great with his underlying metrics. He was top 25% or higher in expected batting average against (xBA), expected slugging percentage against (xSLG), expected weighted on-base average against (xwOBA), and expected earned run average against (xERA).
However, in 2021, those metrics and others took a sharp dive:
xBA – Bottom 48% in MLB
xSLG – Bottom 41%
xwOBA – Bottom 40%
xERA – bottom 40%
A lot of this is most likely due to him not having much movement on his pitches:
Fastball Spin Rate – Bottom 10%
Curveball Spin Rate – Bottom 2%
Anderson does have a high swing and miss rate at the top 31% in MLB, but when hitters don’t miss, they do damage:
Barrel % – Bottom 20%
Hard Hit %: Bottom 49%
There are signs that this could be due to fatigue though because in his last 100 plate appearances against him, the xwOBA against him went from bottom 10% of the league to top 25% of the league.
Ian Anderson is a solid rotation piece that the Atlanta Braves are surely happy to have
Although the underlying metrics do raise some eyebrows, we have yet to see them translate into results that are not worthy of a mid-rotation arm. We saw for years how some pitchers like Julio Teheran’s surface numbers were far better than their underlying metrics.
Combine that with the fact that Ian Anderson was pitching his first full season and dealt with shoulder inflammation, mixed with his playoff composure, there should not be a reason to doubt him until proven otherwise.
Ian Anderson looks to continue to be a contributing member of the Atlanta Braves for years to come. Let us know what you think in the comments.