Tyler Anderson’s summer nightmare continued yesterday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Anderson was one pitch away from escaping the first inning unscathed. With two outs and a runner on second, Anderson reached a full count against Tyler O’Neill. But then he hung an 80-mph changeup in the middle of the zone, and O’Neill calmly blasted it to left field.
It was the first of seven hits the Cardinals would collect against Anderson, including pitcher Austin Gomber’s RBI single off a fastball in the middle of the zone. Anderson was chased from the game before getting that elusive third out, leaving the Colorado Rockies down 6-0.
It was the shortest start of Anderson’s career.
Prior to the All-Star Break, Anderson was arguably the hottest pitcher on the rotation. He went eight innings in two consecutive games against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, giving up just six hits and zero runs combined in those outings.
He followed those displays with two excellent six-inning outings against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners.
But since the All-Star Break, the crafty lefty looks anything but crafty. He’s been one of the most tortured pitchers in baseball. His ERA of 8.31 is second worst in baseball among starters, and he’s allowed 11 home runs in 34 2/3 innings. Opponents are slashing .287/.353/.612 against him.
Most importantly, the Rockies lost his last seven starts. That’s critical when one game is the difference in both the NL West and Wild Card races.
So what’s wrong with “Mr. Duck”?
If you’ve watched Anderson pitch in the last month, you’ve suffered through many misplaced pitches. He’s always pitched to contact, and is continuing to pound the strike zone. But his command has completely deserted him.
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His breaking balls — especially the changeup, which was so effective for much of this season — are hanging up in the zone. He’s also leaving routine fastballs belt high or in the middle of the zone rather than nibbling the corners.
Anderson gives up more fly balls with his four-seam fastball than other pitchers, but at his peak he was initiating more weak contact and pop-ups. However, since the break his soft contact rate is 11.7 percent (second-lowest in baseball), and consequentially his rate of home runs per fly balls is 24.4 percent.
It’s a stark contrast from before the break, when he allowed an elite soft-contact rate of 23.5 and a 12.6 percent rate of home runs per fly balls.
Anderson isn’t naïve to his issues.
"“I’d say it’s 100 percent command,” Anderson said of this month’s woes, according to Owen Perkins of MLB.com. “I’ve probably thrown more balls over the middle of the plate the last few starts than I have the entire rest of the year.”"
But the Rockies have precious little time to let Anderson “figure it out.” That puts the team in an awkward position — what do you do with a proven pitcher going through a rough spell when you have a legitimate shot at your first division title in the club’s history?
Unfortunately, the Rockies have no good replacements for Anderson. As our own Noah Yingling suggested, the Rockies need to acquire another starting pitcher, and I couldn’t agree more. But Antonio Senzatela would be the first pitcher bumped from the rotation, and I don’t believe the Rockies will make the move anyway.
At least Anderson has the right attitude and wisdom to carry him:
"“It’s always frustrating when you’re slumping, whether it’s April, May, June, July, August, September, whatever,” Anderson said. “Winston Churchill said it though. ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ Sometimes you struggle to just keep going.”"
For better or worse, Rockies have no choice to let Anderson keep going. Hopefully ,Anderson can escape the nightmare and help give the Rockies a shot at October glory.