Chase Anderson, in recent weeks, has looked a lot like an ace pitcher. Throughout 2015 and 2016 he pitched about 300 innings with an ERA hovering around 4.30. In 2017 he has gotten off to a hot start accumulating a 2.92 ERA over 83 innings pitched. His FIP is at a respectable 3.38 which ranks 14th among the 83 qualified starting pitchers. What has changed that suddenly made Chase Anderson an ace?
The first and most noticeable change has been Anderson’s pitch usage. In 2016 he threw his curveball 13.5% of the time. This year he is throwing it 17% of the time. From PITCHf/x pitch value found on Fangraphs, Chase Andersons curve is the 15th best curveball so far this season. Historically Anderson has not had much success with his curveball but that can be attributed to location. Take a look at his whiff rates based on location:
Anderson has been good when he gets his curve down like most good pitchers. But he is also getting more whiffs from curves inside the zone. This could be attributed to good pitch framing from Jett Bandy, or because his curveball velocity is up about 2 mph from last year.
Another change he has made is decreasing his 4-seam fastball and using a sinker and cutter more. He has increased his cutter usage from 3.5% last season to 9.4% this season and his sinker/2-seam usage from 8.8% to 17%. In contrast his 4-seam fastball usage decreases from 50.1% to 38.1%.
On the left is 2016 and on the right is this year. It can be noticed that this year Anderson is throwing these pitches more in the zone and having a more compact chart. Last year he was a bit more spread out. He is benefiting from more strike calls while hitters generally are swinging at these pitches at the same rate as last year.
Chase Anderson appears to be having legitimate success. His BABIP is at a modest .283 which is lower than last season when he was not having success, and he is striking out more hitters while walking less. He has garnered more control over his sinker and cutter, and he has benefited from increased curveball usage. The Brewers will hope he continues this success if they want to have a run at a 2017 playoff run.