The Braves have a stable of arms in the starting rotation. Max Fried and Spencer Strider rival any duo in baseball; Kyle Wright wasn’t even fully healthy last year and won 21 games, and Charlie Morton might be the best fourth starter in the league. What’s even crazier is the group battling for the final spot in the rotation — Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, and Bryce Elder.
Anderson has to be seen as the favorite to win the position battle. He’s coming off the worst season of his career and was by far the biggest disappointment of the club in 2022. It wasn’t some small sample size either. In 22 starts, Anderson owned a 5.00 ERA, walking more batters than ever and striking out fewer.
Eventually, he’d be demoted to Gwinnett, where things didn’t improve. Imagine boasting a 1.26 postseason ERA and being a critical part of a team’s World Series run, then posting a 5.40 ERA in the MINOR LEAGUES. It would be a devastating blow to anyone’s confidence.
Entering the 2023 campaign, Ian Anderson knew there had to be a change. It was well documented he spent time in the Wake Forest Pitching Lab, which is world-renowned. It resulted in multiple adjustments. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Justin Toscano, Anderson made numerous mechanical changes, cleaning up his delivery and his posture, but we also learned recently that he added another pitch to his arsenal.
Anderson’s changeup is one of the best pitches in baseball when it’s on, but other than that, he never really had anything else he could rely on. His fastball is good, but it’s by no means an elite pitch. Anderson would sometimes mix in a curveball, but according to Baseball Savant, it’s less than 20% of the time and usually gets hit pretty hard.
I’m not sure if the introduction of a slider means he will stop throwing his curveball, but Anderson desperately needed to add an offering with some horizontal movement. To this point in his career, everything has been vertical, allowing opponents to sit on certain pitches, especially when they get ahead in the count. Anderson’s slider doesn’t have to become an elite offering for him to get back on track. It just needs to be enough to keep hitters honest. A little tweak like that may be all that it takes to get Anderson back on track.
Moreover, his mental state is in a better place. He told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he even believes 2022 could turn into a positive. “It was a good reset,” Anderson said. “I’m not glad it happened. But I think it will be a positive in the long run.”