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Brian Anderson is the Real Deal

We will keep beating this drum until the rest of the baseball world takes notice.

San Diego Padres v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Brian Anderson has been everything the Marlins dreamed of and more this season. Through the first 69 games of the season (nice), he has compiled 2.4 bWAR to go along with a triple slash line of .304/.379/.435. Looking at those numbers, you might think to yourself, “This must be a fluke.” But you would be wrong—Anderson deserves to be in Washington D.C. playing for the National League All-Stars next month alongside the other studs in baseball.

This isn’t a Bryan LaHair situation. Everything Brian Anderson has done this season at the plate is legit and here to stay in Miami for the future.

In the second half of the 2012 season, LaHair hit .202 along with only 2 home runs. And he never returned to Major League Baseball after that. He is considered one of the worst all-star selections ever.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

What has Anderson done in 2018 to become deserving of All-Star recognition? Well, if you have followed any of my past articles—J.T. Realmuto’s “breakout” and Lewis Brinson’s struggles at the plate, for example—you know the drill: I’ll be looking at changes that the hitter has made from season to season.

Hitting the ball harder at an effective launch angle and making contact more often are easy adjustments to spot. They can make a huge impact, and in Anderson’s case, they have. Now obviously, there are more factors that can influence a player’s success at the plate, but those trends together always boost production.

Anderson has done exactly what I mentioned above. He has cut down his strikeout percentage by more than 10% from 29.5% in his 2017 Marlins debut to a more a palatable 19.1%, which is better than the MLB average. He has increased his hard hit percentage by 11.1% to 41.0%. (Hard-hit percentage is any ball with an exit velocity off the bat of 95 MPH or higher. Those batted balls have a much higher chance of becoming not only a hit, but a hit for power.)

Not only has the quality and frequency of contact improved this year, but his entire approach at the plate has, too. First off, I notice that BA is hitting more fly balls this season. He has increased his fly ball percentage by 5.8%, so maybe he’s been inspired by the fly ball revolution #elevateandcelebrate. On hard hit fly balls and line drives this season, he is putting up a 384 wRC+, which is by any standard insanely good. He continues hitting the ball hard and in the air.

The large block of red between 10 and 20 degree is exactly what we want to see from this chart. Contact between 10 and 30 degrees leads to powerful hits.
Baseball Savant

Another adjustment Anderson has made after seeing almost half a year of MLB-caliber pitching is making more contact with breaking balls. He has lowered his whiff percentage this season from last by 8.2% in those situations. Being able to recognize and differentiate pitches is a huge skill to have at the highest level, especially right now when pitchers are dominating the game with nasty pitch after nasty pitch.

Side note: I recommend everyone check out @pitchingninja on Twitter, so they can keep up with all of the nastiest pitches in baseball.

Probably related to his pitch recognition, Anderson decreased his swings on pitches out of the strike zone. He is only offering at them 24.1% of the time, which is down from 30.9% last year and puts him amongst names like Christian Yelich (funny how that works), Jose Ramirez and Matt Chapman.

As the saying goes, “out with the bad, in with the good,” and Anderson has taken it to heart this season by taking steps forward to form an all-around very balanced approach. It should lead to continued success even after the ridiculous hot streak he is riding ends.

Judging by Baseball Savant’s expected wOBA stat, Brian Anderson is actually underperforming by .09 points as his actual wOBA sits at .361 and his xwOBA is .370. He already compares favorably to recent NL Rookie of the Year winners (many of them eventual superstars), according to research from editor Michael Stephenson. This means great things are in store for the 25-year-old.

Oh, and one more thing...Get this man to DC to play in the All-Star Game. Vote now! #BA2DC