Normally when a pitcher makes the jump from Double-A to the majors he is shell shocked for a time. This is definitely not the case for Los Angeles Angels reliever Justin Anderson. It is the batters that are in shock.
When the Los Angeles Angels were looking for bullpen help going into their series against the defending World Champion Houston Astros, they went searching in unlikeliest of places: The Double-A Mobile Bay Bears. The Angels saw a young Texas right-hander who was pitching lights out for the first time in his minor league career. That right-hander was Justin Anderson.
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Anderson came into the 2018 season with a career ERA of almost 5 (4.91) and a WHIP of 1.57. However in 2018 Anderson was lights out pitching 8.2 innings between Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake CIty only allowing two hits and no runs with 14 strikeouts. His WHIP was a minuscule 0.20. So the Angels made the call for Anderson to join them in his hometown of Houston.
Most pitchers would have been overwhelmed pitching in their hometown for their first major league game and against the defending World Champions to boot. Not Anderson. The rookie came in throwing heat from the get go and hasn’t stopped yet.
In five high leverage outings, four with the Angels leading in the seventh inning or later , Anderson has been up to the challenge. So far Anderson has not given up a run and has seven strikeouts in five innings of work. His WHIP is a respectable 1.20, but what is the most eye-popping is his .167 opponents batting average.
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WIth Keynan Middleton on the disabled list for at least 10 days and Cam Bedrosian trying to find his form, Anderson is the best candidate to fill the closer role until Middleton’s return. Just like Middleton, Anderson’s stuff is electric as his fastball has been clocked as high as 99 miles per hour and is consistently 96-98 MPH. Couple this a slider that is absolutely filthy at 88-90 MPH and you have your closer.
Anderson has had to face the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius who are some of the AL’s elite hitters and he has retired them all. He struck out Stanton, Judge, and Correa.
In his 1.1 innings of work on Friday night Anderson faced the Bronx Bombers for the first time and went right through the modern day Murderers Row without batting an eyelash. He struck out Judge, then got Gregorius and Stanton to fly out to end the eighth inning with the one run Angel lead intact.
I’m all about loyalty and I think Cam Bedrosian is a great guy with a live arm, but I also believe in the adage ‘What have you done for me lately’. For Cam Bedrosian the answer is not much, but on the otherhand for Justin Anderson the proof is in the pudding. Anderson has done very well and doesn’t seem to get rattled which is what you need as a closer.
So to Mike Scioscia, I beg of you make Justin Anderson the interim closer so we don’t have anymore repeats of Tuesday night’s near disaster in the ninth inning.