By Jon Weisman
Though he is typically self-deprecating (if not self-punishing) about his athleticism off the mound, Brett Anderson said today that Zack Greinke told him he ranked third defensively “according to some stat — I don’t know which one, Brooks Baseball or Fangraphs or whatever.”
The stat, it appears, is stolen base runs saved: “the pitcher’s contributions to controlling the running game.” Or maybe it was dives like this one (click to enlarge) at Texas in June that elevated his defensive stature. Whatever the stat was, Anderson said he wanted it on his headstone.
More to the point: A month after finishing his busiest and healthiest season of the decade, the left-hander is far from having burial rites performed on his career.
Speaking to reporters today for the first time since agreeing to the Dodgers’ qualifying offer for 2016, Anderson said he is ahead of schedule in terms of his preparation for next season.
A year ago, Anderson was still rehabilitating from back surgery, leaving him only a little time for strength training as Spring Training approached.
“Now,” said Anderson, “it’s still just a little more prehab, trying to prevent any injuries, but hopefully building up strength so I can have even better stuff and take it through 30-plus starts again even more so than I did last year.”
Anderson acknowledged that his innings jump this year “was pretty significant” — 180 1/3 after only 123 in the previous three seasons combined.
“The last start was fine in San Francisco,” Anderson said, “but the two before that … it was finally coming to the point where it was getting a little tired.”
Anderson was curious whether having a “pseudo-normal offseason” might not only improve his endurance, but perhaps even translate into more velocity for a pitcher whose strikeout rate fell to a career-low 5.8 per nine innings.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be where I was 2009-2010, early in my career, when I was mid-to-upper 90s,” Anderson said, “but if I can add more power to my slider, sneak some fastballs by people, then obviously I’ll take that.”
Physical condition aside, Anderson said his biggest evolution in 2015 involved growing accustomed to “being the groundball guy.” The southpaw’s 66.3 percent groundball rate topped Major League Baseball. However, he also wants to improve keeping the ball out of the stands, “because it seemed like every flyball that was hit was a home run.” Anderson led the Dodgers by allowing 18 home runs.
Though some might interpret his decision to take the Dodgers’ one-year offer as playing it safe, it was more a sign of self-confidence from Anderson, who said he did have multi-year offers and remains open to one from the Dodgers down the road.
“My situation is a little bit unique in the fact that I’m younger than most to have been offered a qualifying offer,” said Anderson, who will be 28 next season. “I liked being in L.A., and I liked my teammates and I liked everything about it, other than the ending to the season. Everything in consideration, the one-year deal fit myself again, and hopefully (with) the stigma of a health record off my back, go into next year and see what happens.”
“I just didn’t want to be in a situation where a year or two into something, I don’t like where I’m at, and I didn’t want to think I did it just because of the money and all that. … Obviously being back with a really good organization where I had some success, that was obviously a plus too.”
Of no concern to the calm Anderson was the vacancy in the Dodger managerial office.
“No, we have some obviously smart people at the top,” Anderson said, “and I feel like they’re going to make the right decision, so that wasn’t a factor in it. I liked the coaching staff last year, but like I said, I trust them to make a positive decision going forward.”