I’m worried about Cody Anderson.
He was roughed up again on Thursday against the Seattle Mariners, and now has a 7.53 ERA in his three starts while allowing a pitiful 1.015 OPS to opposing hitters.
Normally I wouldn’t overreact to three starts—it’s such a small sample size it’s almost irrelevant—but Anderson is struggling in all the ways that we’ve been worried about him struggling.
In simple terms, the issue with Anderson is that he doesn’t fool anyone. He doesn’t throw hard enough to force swings and misses in the zone, and he lacks a nasty breaking ball to force hitters to chase outside the zone.
Unfortunately we’ve seen a lot of these guys in recent years—with Cliff Lee being the extreme outlier.
But it’s worth noting that almost all of these pitchers are soft-tossing lefties—a type of pitcher that isn’t necessarily ideal, but tends to have far more success than their right-handed counterparts.
The only righties in this group other than Anderson: Jeanmar Gomez, Derek Lowe and Mitch Talbot. In each of these cases, their starts with the Tribe represented the end of their career as a starting pitcher.
For whatever reason, it’s just harder for right-handed pitchers to fool hitters if they don’t have dominant power pitches or devastating breaking balls to induce swings and misses.
Dating back to 2012, only 17 right-handed pitchers in baseball have generated a lower whiff rate than Anderson’s current mark of 17.8 percent. And it’s a pretty brutal group.
Based on this list, the best case scenario for a pitcher with Anderson’s stuff is a decent fourth starter.
So let’s say the Indians do have another Guthrie or Pelfrey. I’d certainly take that as our fourth or fifth starter and it’s worth continuing to develop Anderson to fill that role. But it’s also not worth trotting him out there and letting him work through the kinks at the major league level. The ceiling just isn’t high enough to watch him take his lumps in the majors and hurt the team in the process.
At this point I’d rather give Trevor Bauer another shot. As frustrating as Bauer has been, at least his ceiling is a top-of-the-rotation starter. I’m much more willing to remain patient watching the Tribe develop that type of talent than a low-upside starter like Anderson.