A few bumpy outings aside, Shaun Anderson has had a solid rookie season with the San Francisco Giants. Since debuting in mid-May, the 24-year-old right-hander has won three of five decisions, and on six occasions he’s gone at least five innings while allowing just a pair of runs. Overall, he has a 4.87 ERA and a 4.37 FIP in 12 starts.
Anderson is comfortable on a big stage. He pitched in the College World Series while at the University of Florida, and last summer he took the mound in the All-Star Futures Game. The former Gator came into this year ranked eighth on our Giants Top Prospects list.
He was originally Red Sox property. A third-round pick in 2016, Anderson was shipped to San Francisco thirteen months later, along with now-19-year-old righty Gregory Santos, in exchange for Eduardo Nunez. The days-before-the-trade-deadline deal brought Boston a player who helped them win a World Series — Nunez has since been DFA’d — while San Francisco got an up-and-comer who doesn’t fit a conventional mold.
College relievers rarely become big-league starters, and this is an era where pitchers typically pump gas and miss a lot of bats. Anderson is an anomaly in both respects. The erstwhile closer has a pedestrian 92/93mph heater, and he’s punching out just 5.7 batters per nine innings.
Asked about his approach, Anderson described it as “attack.” Undaunted by big-league hitters in the box, he’s all about mixing and matching, and working down in the zone.
“You never want to pitch to the bat,” Anderson told me recently. “But you do want to miss barrels. I am trying to pitch to contact, but with the intent of making good pitches and staying away from balls in the air. Balls in the air can go out, so you want them to hit it into the ground. That’s what’s going to lead to success.”
Anderson’s 44.8% ground-ball rate is second-best among Giants starters (Tyler Beede is at 46%), and he’s been taken deep a not-too-often seven times in 64-and-two-thirds innings.
The righty’s repertoire includes two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. His slider is generally regarded as his best pitch, although he was hesitant to say as much when queried on the subject. The way he sees it, being able to throw any of them, at any time, is perhaps his greatest strength. The long-maned hurler professes to do a lot of homework on opposing hitters, and on fellow pitchers as well.
“I watch a lot of baseball,” said Anderson. “I watch guys we play against, and I also watch our guys. I like to find pitchers who are somewhat similar to me, and look at how, and why, they’re successful. Zack Greinke, for instance. He does a really good job of throwing the ball down in the zone, and getting guys to swing early. He pitched against us recently, and I watched the way he went about his business. You can obviously learn a lot by watching somebody like that.”
Aaron Bummer has quietly been one of the most effective relievers in the American League this season. The 25-year-old Chicago White Sox southpaw boasts a 1.73 ERA, and he’s fanned 35 batters, while allowing just 21 hits, in 31 appearances covering 36-and-a-third innings.
Replacing his slider with a cutter has helped fuel his success. Bummer relies heavily on a 95-mph sinker, and the pitch he’d been augmenting it with wasn’t doing the job. It was too erratic to keep hitters honest.
“I wasn’t able to keep my slider in the zone enough,” Bummer explained. “I wasn’t throwing enough strikes with it, which put me in too many bad counts. The cutter is a more-competitive pitch for me — I can execute it better — which allows me to be more aggressive with my sinker.”
Make that aggressive and effective. Bummer’s 68.5% ground-ball rate is the second highest among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. Only Zack Britton, with an eye-popping 77.8%, has been killing more worms.
As for his go-to secondary, the lefty is throwing his cutter 20% of the time, while his slider mostly resides in his back pocket. Last season, when his ERA was north of 4.00, Bummer was throwing sliders at roughly the same rate that he now throws his cutter.
Asked if he’d been guilty of trying to manipulate his slider, as opposed to simply letting the grip do the work, Bummer admitted that was probably the case. Especially against opposite-handed hitters.
“Leaving sliders in the zone to righties isn’t where you want to be, because you’re going right into their bat path,” said Bummer. “Too often, I was trying to make it too big, or too small — too something — instead of just trusting it. With the cutter, I’m trusting that it’s going to do what it’s going to do, which is move just enough to miss a barrel.”
Last year, righties batted .338 against Bummer — “they kicked my teeth in” — and this year that number is a Lilliputian .143. Much to his (ahem) relief, they’re no longer his bugaboo. With the likelihood that LOOGYs will soon be a thing of the past, that could prove to be a career-saver.
“There are the new rules coming out where guys can no longer be lefty-only,” said Bummer. “So I took it upon myself to say, ‘All right, what are we going to do to get righties out?” Cutters ended up being the answer. Teams know I’m going to throw a lot of sinkers, but now they also have to respect my cutter. It’s been big for me.”
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Tim Mayza has appeared in 99 big-league games, all with the Toronto Blue Jays, and has a won-loss record of 3-0. Over the past century, only Clay Rapada (8-0, 152 games) and Buddy Boshers (3-0, 100 games) have more pitching appearances without incurring a loss.
I asked the lefty reliever if his loss-free mark is something he ever thinks about.
“Wins and losses, no,” answered Mayza. “For me it’s always a one-pitch, one-batter mentality. I get put into a situation when my name gets called, and it’s my job to get as many hitters out as I can before the manager decides to take the ball from me. I never go into a game thinking, ‘I can win it here.’ My personal won-loss record isn’t something I put any thought into.”
Project 14 was established in 2007, shortly after David Price signed his first professional contract. Initially run by his family and a few close friends from church, the charitable foundation now has nearly 20 people on its board of directors. The non-profit’s main mission, per Price, is “To help kids and give back to the community.”
Students in underserved districts are among the beneficiaries. Project 14 has provided “backpacks full of school supplies,” winter clothes, and most notably, computers and iPads.
“I think that’s one of the cooler things we do,” said the former Vanderbilt Commodore. “Some schools don’t have computer labs, or if they do, they’re very limited. We’ll buy 20 or 30 iPads and essentially turn a computer lab into an iPad lab. The electronic world has really taken over this generation of kids, and we can help make learning more enjoyable this way.”
And then there is Miracle Field, a special needs baseball and playground facility, in Price’s hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He called it “probably our biggest accomplishment.”
I asked the 33-year-old left-hander what prompted his charitable efforts.
“I remember my parents telling me, when I was extremely young, that if I was ever in a position to give back — especially in the city where I was raised — that it was something I needed to think about doing,” the lefty responded. “After I signed, I felt it was a no-brainer.”
His parents, who play primary roles in running the foundation, are his role models. Price’s father worked on a line at Bridgestone for over two decades, his mother as an accountant at National Health Corporation. They raised their son well.
Mason Martin, a 20-year-old first baseman in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, had a South Atlantic League-best 23 home runs before being promoted to high-A Bradenton three weeks ago. A 17th-round pick in 2017 out of a Kennewick, WA high school, Martin has added one dinger to his seasonal total since joining the Marauders.
Otto Lopez, a 20-year-old middle infielder in the Toronto Blue Jays system, is slashing .293/.350/.388 in 306 plate appearances with the Lansing Lugnuts in the low-A Midwest League. No. 32 on our Blue Jays Top Prospects list, Lopez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Montreal with his family at age 12.
Liover Peguero, an 18-year-old shortstop in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, is slashing .380/.426/.570 in 108 plate appearances with the Missoula Osprey in the rookie-level Frontier League. Signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago, Peguero came into the year ranked No. 8 on our D-Backs Top Prospects list.
Michele Vassalotti, an 18-year-old pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers system, has 31 strikeouts in as many innings with the Rocky Mountain Vibes in the rookie-level Frontier League. The Venezuelan-born right-hander represented Team Italy in the 2017 WBSC U18 World Cup.
Bryant Aragon, a 21-year-old first baseman, is slashing .310/.383/.413 with Tigres de Quintana Roo, in the Mexican League. Signed as a catcher, the left-handed hitter played in the San Diego Padres system from 2015-2017.
Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, who in 1959 became the first African-American player in Red Sox history, died earlier this week at age 85. The switch-hitting infielder played five big-league seasons, four with Boston, and one with the New York Mets. His younger brother, Cornell Green, was a defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys from 1962-1974, and made five Pro Bowls.
Ernie Broglio, who was infamously traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Chicago Cubs in 1964 as part of the multi-player Lou Brock deal, also died this week. A right-handed pitcher who won 21 games for the Cardinals in 1960, Broglio was a high school teammate of Pumpsie Green, in El Cerrito, CA.
Some of you may have seen this oddity before, but I hadn’t until earlier this week at Fenway Park. Here is what happened:
With two out and the bases loaded, a batter swung and missed on a two-strike pitch in the dirt. The ball was blocked out in front by the catcher, who instead of throwing to first to complete the strikeout, backed up and stepped on home plate for a force out. Inning over.
According to that night’s official scorer, this play is technically a force out… yet it isn’t. The pitcher is credited with a strikeout, the batter is debited with a strikeout, and the catcher gets a putout. In other words, the scoring is exactly the same as on a conventional K… even though it isn’t. Yes, baseball can be strange.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
An NBP team batted its best hitter in the two-hole, and somehow the world survived. Jim Allen has the story at jballallen.com.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Angels relievers have 32 wins this season, the most in the majors. Orioles relievers have nine wins, the fewest in the majors.
This past Tuesday, Xander Bogaerts joined Ted Williams as the only two players in Red Sox history to record at least one hit, one run, and one RBI in eight straight games. Williams had eight in 1942, and 11 in 1950. (Per the Red Sox media relations staff.)
On this date in 1970, San Diego Padres right-hander Clay Kirby pitched eight hitless innings against the New York Mets, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter (Cito Gaston, who struck out). Reliever Jack Baldschun proceeded to surrender three hits. To this day, the franchise is without a no-hitter.
On July 19, 1936, Bob Feller made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians at age 17. By the end of his age-22 season, “Rapid Robert” had led the American League in wins three times, and in strikeouts four times. He then missed the 1942-1944 seasons while serving in the military.
On July 18, 1947, the New York Yankees had their 19-game winning streak snapped in an 8-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Fred Hutchinson hurled a two-hitter, and went 3 for 4 at the plate, for the victors. Two days later the Tigers swept a double-header from the Bombers, winning the second game 11-10 in 11 innings.
Ray Montgomery hit the only home run of his big-league career on July 24, 1996. An outfielder for the Houston Astros at the time, Montgomery is now a Vice President and Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mike Mussina went 22-6, with a 3.09 ERA, in 33 starts against the Minnesota Twins.
Harold Baines had a .900 OPS, 55 home runs, 555 total bases, 160 walks, and 150 strikeouts, in 353 games at Camden Yards.