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Royals Nightly
Thursday, July 01, 2004
 
The Decay of Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson has been all kinds of bad this season. Opposing batters are hitting an unbelievable .362/.407/.608 during his 76 innings of work this year. Basically, the best player in the American League has been "whom ever is batting against Brian Anderson".

Prior to last season, Anderson had established a certain level of performance: he could generally stay in a big league rotation, he didn't strike very many guys out, but sorta mitigated that by also keeping his walks down. (Sound familiar???)His K/9 rate has only topped the 5.00 mark once, and that was in 1999. Still, in the right circumstances Brian Anderson could be an asset to a major league team.

Lets look at some numbers:

YR ERA AVG K/9 K/BB

2002 4.79 .284 4.67 2.53
2003 3.78 .279 3.96 2.02
2004 7.16 .362 3.40 1.00


2002 represents something like Anderson's established level of performance his ERA had been a little better before, and a little worse, as had his control rates and batting average allowed. Last season, Anderson got off to a hot start with the Indians, although its really not clear how. He was basically the same guy, he just didn't give up as many earned runs, and his ERA dipped into the 3's. Weirder still, aside from allowing a few less hits, his K-rate started dropping, revealing that he was either a) somehow effectively pitching to contact (an idea that may or may not actually be possible) or b) getting a little lucky with what fell in for hits while not actually fooling hitters much.

In 2004, the bottom's completely fallen out. Say what you want about DIPS Theory and Pitcher Batting Average Allowed as an indicative tool- but when you're allowing a .360 average you stuff is weak. Bottom line. As you can see, his K-rate has decayed even further, so much so that now his walks are equalling his strikeouts. There are many paths to an ERA in the 7s, but allowing a .360 BA with no strikeouts in front of a bad defense might be the easiest route of all.

Wanna see something else weird?


ERA K/9 K/BB

2003 CLE 3.71 4.38 2.25
2003 KCR 3.99 2.72 1.36


I haven't read anything that says that pitching coach Cumberland actually advocated some kind of anti-strikeout approach to pitching, and there are sample size issues all over the place in those split stats from 2003-- but it is pretty frightening that Anderson's K-Rate just totally collapsed at essentially the moment he put on a Royals uniform.

Finally, Brian Anderson isn't this bad, not .362/.407/.608 -bad. If he pitches another 70 innings I'd bet all the money I had that his numbers would improve, although in part because its hard for ANYONE'S numbers to be that bad for that long. I think, in baseball, and in the rest of life, we all have sorta "established levels of performance" at work, relationships, physically etc. Sometimes, for no real reason, things start going a little better than we've really proven they can be for us, other times, everything melts-down at the wrong time and it looks like we'll be better off standing on the street-corner. Most of the time however, we're just our normal selves... Brian Anderson was once sailing along, enjoying the merits of being Brian Anderson. Then, at this point last year, he was maybe the highest (in perception) he'd ever been, with a good shot at being Cleveland's nominal All-Star; then, just as quickly as it came, it went... and a year later he's just totally terrible. Baseball-wise, I have no idea how that feels, most of us don't and never will. Life-wise, I think we all have a good idea, and therefore I'm trying not to be too harsh.

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