The Rundown: Brett Anderson is a Stathead, Kyle Hendricks Feels Better than Ever, Fowler Making Cards Fun, MLB Wants Stickier Balls
Brett Anderson, noted sarcastic ass, is apparently a numbers nerd. That’s what FanGraphs’ David Laurila got from the lefty, who debuted with the Cubs Monday afternoon.
“I kind of look at [advanced metrics] in a broad sense,” explained Anderson. “I don’t want to get super in-depth, because if you look at enough stats, everything will become white noise. I look at stuff like percentages of first-pitch swings, my pitch usage — some of the graph stuff — like if my pitches are coming out of the same slot. I want to make sure my release point is where I want it to be, and everything looks like it’s coming out of the same tunnel.”
And that, my friends, is what all these numbers and charts are supposed to be about. There seems to be this binary sense among some on either side of the stats movement, as though deeper analysis is either wholly good or bad. As with any situation, though, the truth lies in combining what the numbers tell us with what we can see through our own eyes.
We heard how Mike Bryant worked with his son, the reigning NL MVP, to combine feel with the results from a computer-based swing analysis program. And we’ve see how pitchers with the best “tunnels” are often the most successful. It’s not about putting numbers first, at least it shouldn’t be. Rather, it’s about distilling what we see and feel into something tangible and measurable. By so doing, we can also make it more repeatable.
Where Anderson is concerned, he and the Cubs are just hoping he can repeat a pattern of good health over the next few months. The “hybrid” fifth starter downplayed his initial outing, taking an understandable step-by-step approach to the season ahead.
“Getting into a game and getting through it, at this point, that’s all I can ask for. Stuff was OK. Got some ground balls, which I’m accustomed to doing, and got a strikeout. For the first outing, I’ll take it.”
Hendricks already in a groove
Whether it’s the confidence born of a Cy Young-caliber season or a fierce dedication to yoga, Kyle Hendricks has come into Spring Training feeling better than ever. As such, he joins scores of other players who have reported to camp in the best shape of their career. But to hear Hendricks say it is to believe that he’s not just blowing smoke.
“This year was a little different, because the offseason was so short,” Hendricks said in that aforelinked FanGraphs piece. “When I picked up my throwing program, it felt a lot more natural. Coming into spring, I felt much more in tune with my body, and my mechanics, than I have in the past.”
That’s a great sign for the Cubs, who will be looking to Hendricks to build upon a season in which he threw a career-high 190 regular-season innings before logging another 25.1 in the postseason. With better pitch sequencing, particularly his increased usage of the four-seamer and curve (requisite plug for Sahadev Sharma and The Athletic, both of which have been doing great work over the past year-plus), Hendricks was able to maintain his effectiveness and go deeper into games last season. It probably helps that he’s not a max-effort guy, someone who falls apart when his velocity dips.
While it’d be unreasonable to expect Hendricks to once again lead the NL in ERA, there’s no reason to believe he can’t be at least the number three starter on this team.
Dexter Fowler, music man
You know how you hear a bit of gossip in sort of a secondhand manner and you brush it off as the product of the source’s inherent bias? That’s how it’s gotten for me with Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals. I instinctively tune all the stuff out because I figure the general prejudice of the lens through which I — and a good number of the people with whom I interact — view that topic will skew all conversation.
So I allowed this whole thing about Fowler bringing fun to the Redbirds’ camp to breathe a bit before discussing it. Below is an excerpt from Mark Saxon’s recent piece on ESPN.com about the newest Cardinal’s mission:
Each morning, Kolten Wong slings his bat bag over his shoulder, grabs his glove and then picks up one last piece of essential equipment before he heads to the field for morning stretch at St. Louis Cardinals camp.
It’s a high-powered, portable speaker for players to plug their phones into. The team rotates who picks the music, and it’s all the brainchild of the team’s newest centerpiece player, Dexter Fowler.
Playing music during batting practice is hardly revolutionary. But it has generated headlines in Cardinals camp, where spring trainings have been run with an all-business precision. Fowler’s sunny, shrug-it-off view of baseball, if not life, is among the reasons the team zeroed in on him as the perfect solution to their needs all winter. Not only is he a discerning leadoff hitter, a strong base runner and a solid center fielder, but he also has a laid-back demeanor. That isn’t the adjective most associated with the Cardinals.
This is totally the script of a buddy cop movie, wherein Fowler and Matt Carpenter form a platonic opposites-attract bond as their ball-busting chief — played by Mike Matheny — struggles to loosen up before finally cracking a smile by the end of the film. There’s even a bit of slapstick humor when the two face Carpenter’s old partner, Matt Holliday, who takes a baseball to the junk.
I just can’t get over the fact that playing music during BP was, like, taboo or whatever. Who knows, maybe Saxon’s just using a little artistic license in shining a light on the levity Fowler has brought to his take-themselves-too-seriously team. Good for him, trying to have a little fun.
More news and notes
- Ian Happ trying to make a name for himself [subscribtion], write’s The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan writes that MLB is seeking to have Rawlings produce balls with natural tack in order to avoid the use of pine tar and other foreign substances
- Patrick Mooney has the story on how Ryan Dempster ended up pitching for Team Canada in the WBC