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Giants get hitched to former Rockies starter Tyler Anderson

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This could mean something or it could mean nothing.

MLB: FEB 20 Colorado Rockies Photo Day Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You may remember left-handed starter Tyler Anderson as the pitcher who throws with that funky hitch. Here he is striking out Brandon Belt:

Anyway, the Giants have claimed him off waivers from the Rockies, giving them a possible rotation option in the event Madison Bumgarner doesn’t return.

Or not.

We ought to know by now that any move the Giants make isn’t a permanent or even long-term one. To make room for Anderson, Kyle Barraclough was designated for assignment. He wasn’t all that great for them in his nine innings, but the Giants do need relievers next year.

But they also need starting pitchers, and Anderson might have the potential to fill the back end of the rotation. He pitched just 20.2 innings last year — zero in the minors — because of a cartilage issue in his knee that required season-ending surgery. So, that’s why this move might not matter in a week or two, once free agency really gets going, but grabbing an intriguing arm as a raffle ticket in case his health improves is what the first year of the Zaidi era has been all about.

Now . . . is there talent in Anderson’s arm? First, let’s throw out his 2019 season (11.76 ERA in those 20.2 IP) and just focus on his three-year track record with the Rockies from 2016-2018, his age-26, 27, and 28 seasons.

He threw 376.1 innings and featured an 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 1.4 HR/9 (112 ERA+), which included 36 total starts (and 40 games) at Coors Field. His home numbers were better than his road numbers (4.23 ERA vs. 5.31). He accumulated 5.3 fWAR over this same span, 65th out of 120 qualified starting pitchers. He was basically an average pitcher. Not replacement level — average.

In my Trevor Gott season review today, I noted that nothing about his velocity changed and yet he was much more effective after joining the Giants than he ever was with the Nationals. The only noticeable change was a switch of his primary fastball, from a sinker to a four-seamer. The Giants didn’t add any new pitches to his arsenal, they just got him to throw a pitch that works better in the modern environment more often.

Could the Giants see something similar in Tyler Anderson to help him unlock pending success?

His entire career has taken place in the Statcast eara, so we can at least take a look at those numbers and determine if there’s a “ditch the sinker, throw the four-seamer” lesson on the horizon for him. What stands out is the effectiveness of his cutter, which over the past three seasons has been his greatest swing-and-miss pitch. It has also been his primary “put away” pitch his entire career.

Your “Putaway Percentage (PutAway%)” refresher, courtesy of MLB.com:

Putaway Percentage (PutAway%) is the rate of two-strike pitches that result in a strikeout.

When examined on a pitch-type basis, this can help discern what offering a pitcher uses to finish off hitters, and his effectiveness in doing so. This puts a number to the common baseball phrase of “putaway pitch,” providing a more statistically based assessment of the concept.

Anderson is not a power lefty with strikeouts stuff — 367 K in 397 career ML innings — but he can get them with changing speeds, location, and sequencing. In other words, he’s been a crafty pitcher, which makes sense given his 91-92 mph fastball.

He also features a curveball and changeup. He has the same exact pitch arsenal as Madison Bumgarner, in fact. To the point that I fought the urge to make the headline, “Is Tyler Anderson the new Madison Bumgarner?”

I don’t think that’s the case, but if I wanted to be cynical, then I’d look at the arsenal and the general effectiveness of Anderson versus Bumgarner and consider that the Giants just claimed a left-handed starting pitcher who will be entering his age-30 season in 2020 . . . just like Madison Bumgarner. Maybe instead of fighting to re-sign him, they’re choosing to grab his non-union equivalent.

Consider this!

Yeah, that’s throwing out Anderson’s entire 2019 result, but on paper, it looks a lot like the Giants might’ve grabbed a — let’s call him — gentle echo of their former ace, a player who might have a maximum projection of somewhere in Madison Bumgarner’s lower-end projection, but without a hefty price tag attached.

Anderson made $2.625 million in his first year of arbitration, so the Giants will be on the hook for something greater than the league minimum, should they decide to hold onto him, which is no guarantee but still seems like a strong possibility, given the other circumstances. He has an option remaining and the Giants desperately need pitching.

Maybe they got him to Gott him or maybe they just saw the chance to cheaply sustain the rotation while the farm system sorts itself out. That’s assuming Anderson is able to return from knee surgery.

I’m not saying Tyler Anderson is the next Madison Bumgarner, nor am I suggesting the Giants think they’ve found a suitable replacement, just that there’s some overlap between the two, and maybe that did somehow factor into the Giants’ thinking.