When Tampa Bay right-hander Nick Anderson was on the bump in 2020, he was absolutely electric. He took his already impressive strikeout rate to another level, dropped the walk rate a bit, and held the opposition to a measly .091 batting average. Furthermore, his 0.55 ERA was exceptional, and a 0.49 WHIP helped keep his FIP (1.35) incredibly low as well. He missed a couple of weeks with right forearm inflammation, so he was limited to 16.1 innings pitched in the shortened 2020 season. His velocity was fine upon his return, but he looked like a different pitcher in the postseason.
The electric right-hander posted a 5.52 ERA across 14.2 postseason innings, and his strikeout rate was a putrid 14.8 percent. For the record, his strikeout rate in 2019 was 41.7 percent, and it was 44.8 percent in the 2020 regular season. Recency bias is working against him here, and despite the bad 14.2 innings in the postseason, we have 81.1 good regular season innings.
In 2019, he posted a strikeout and whiff rate in the 100th percentile and 98th percentile respectively. As I mentioned earlier, his strikeout rate actually increased in 2020, and his whiff rate remained within one percentage point. His 44.8 percent strikeout rate was the fifth-highest in baseball amongst all pitchers that faced at least 25 batters.
Overall, his whiff numbers were still excellent, but you can see his curveball whiff rate dropped as the year went on and was down considerably after his return from injury. At least his fastball remained steady, and on the upper end of his upwards trajectory in 2019.
Now, Anderson only has seven saves in his career, but he’s being drafted as a prime source of saves this year. The Rays figure to be in a spot to win a good chunk of games, so can Anderson be a prime contributor in the saves department. Furthermore, will manager Kevin Cash give him the lion’s share of the save opportunities? Well, let’s look at his usage in the ninth inning throughout his time down in Tampa.
- 2015 - Brad Boxberger had 41 saves while seven other pitchers combined for 19 saves
- 2016 - Alex Colomé had 37 saves while four other pitches combined for five saves
- 2017 - Alex Colomé had 47 saves while five other pitches combined for six saves
- 2018 - Sergio Romo had 25 saves, Alex Colomé had 11 saves (traded), José Alvarado had eight saves and four other pitchers combined for eight saves
- 2019 - Emilio Pagán had 20 saves, Diego Castillo had eight saves, José Alvarado had seven saves and eight other pitches combined for 11 saves
- 2020 - Nick Anderson had six saves, Diego Castillo had four saves, and a whopping ten other pitchers combined for 13 saves
With some of his metrics from the 2020 season, it’s hard to gather what will carry over or not. In 2019, when he didn’t strike guys out, he profiled more as a fly ball pitcher, inducing a ground ball just 28.8 percent of the time. His line drive rate of 29.5 percent is alarming, but just wait. In 2020, his line drive rate dropped to 6.9 percent, which is great, but his ground ball rate also dropped to 20.7 percent. So, do the math, and yes, his fly ball rate was an insane 72.4 percent.
He did generate more pop ups (17.2%), which helped, but the big takeaway is that a 4.8 HR/FB rate helped him avoid problems with home runs, however, he better be careful. Albeit a limited sample size in the 2020 regular season, his average exit velocity dropped by over one mile per hour, but it increased on fly balls and line drives, and decreased on grounders.
EV on FB/LD
EV on GB
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
His launch angle was an immense 31.4 degrees, so baseballs would have to be absolutely obliterated to leave the yard, but if that launch angle falls into a power alley or optimal degree, Anderson could see a few more home runs on his ledger. However, to his credit, he’s allowed an even 1.00 HR/9 at the big league level, and he allowed just 11 home runs across 183.2 innings at the minor league level.
Per NFBC data, he’s averaging as the 12th closer off the board and even if he doesn’t lead the league in saves, or even rank in the top five, he should provide elite ratios and challenge for the lead in strikeout rate among all pitchers. He’s a bit risky as your team’s primary reliever, but he’s an electric second reliever that you can add to your team that should push 20-ish saves, if not more, and with a full workload, he’s going for 100+ strikeouts.