After a solid first year in the MLB, the LA Angels saw Justin Anderson take a step back rather than leap forward in his sophomore year.
There were a few different reasons people believed the LA Angels reliever wound up having a bad season. Most of the Angels’ relievers were overworked which led to poorer numbers. Some just believed he wasn’t good enough. Some blamed his velocity dip.
However, while some of that may be included in Anderson’s disappointing sophomore season, none are the end-all be-all for the reasoning. The key to Justin Anderson rebounding in 2020 and being a key part of the Angels’ bullpen is in his slider.
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In his first season, Anderson’s slider was an elite pitch to get batters to swing and miss. He paired it with a heater of a fastball, and was able to fool batters as to which pitch was coming. However, advanced stats (and simply watching games) tell us that it was easier for batters to decipher what Anderson was throwing in 2019.
Part of this was likely due to a velocity dip. Anderson appeared to pitch through a lat injury at some point in the year, and ultimately missed two months of the season because of it. That’s the type of injury that changes everything for a pitcher, so he might not have had the same strength for velocity as in 2018.
Anderson was still hit hard when he was hit through. That is a major problem, but appears to just be part of Anderson’s game at this point in his career. That’s fine, as long as he is willing to live by the strikeout and die by the strikeout. In theory, that’s a solid idea. However, as we saw last season when Anderson can’t miss bats, it gets ugly for him on the mound very quickly.
The Angels are somewhat relying on Anderson to be an effective pitcher in 2020. If the reason for his velocity dip was purely because of injury, they there is little reason to worry going into next season. However, if Anderson still hasn’t gotten healthy next year, it could have a serious impact on his future with the Angels.
For Anderson, he has the stuff to be a rock solid reliever. However, his slider needs to be effective to do so, and that means Anderson needs to come to Spring Training with his 2018 velocity rather than the 2019 ones.