ATLANTA – Somewhere in the middle of Ian Anderson allowed five rounds in the first half during a 9-1 loss to the Angels on Sunday afternoon, the Braves gained more reason to add a kick-starter ahead of the August 2 trading deadline.
Atlanta hasn’t shown many weaknesses while posting an MLB-best 35-12 record since the beginning of June. But there always seems to be a need to add a start to provide insurance should Anderson, right-hand rookie, Spencer Strider, continues to struggle.
Anderson created some optimism before the All-Star break, then erased some as he netted eight hits and seven runs to the Angels in just three rounds. The 24-year-old pitcher has a 5.31 ERA through 19 starts and has now run four rounds or less in four of his past eight starts.
“It’s been tough all season,” Anderson said. “I just don’t perform the way I would like to do. Probably the worst baseball stretch I’ve ever had in my life.”
Max Fried, Kyle Wright and the brave Charlie Morton give three key frontline players. But with the World Championship champions ready to defend their title, the uncertainty surrounding Anderson and Strider appears to be enough to add another start to at least serve as insurance.
After exhausting their ranch system to acquire Matt Olson from the A’s in March, the Braves likely won’t be in the market for Luis Castillo or Frankie Montas, who are arguably the two best starters available before August 2. Need another start on the front lines.
Reds’ Tyler Mahley and D quarterback Meryl Kelly seem to be more likely to assault the Braves. Reinforcing the desire to add a junior player is the fact that teams no longer have the option of making a concession deal after the trade deadline has passed. Therefore, August 2 will be the last chance for teams to meet needs or desires externally.
The only indoor option of interest in Atlanta is left-back Kyle Mueller, who has scored 2.25 ERAs over his past eight starts with Triple-A Gwinnett. Mueller issued six walks over the course of 2 and 3 runs during his only big start to the league this year. But if outside help isn’t available, the Braves may need to decide whether to give Muller another chance or give him more time to develop in an ongoing fashion.
With some days off scheduled, Braves Strider might give some extra rest or maybe skip the start. But they don’t plan to put an end to the innings on the top rookie pitcher, who is already 20 runs away from the total he amassed during his first professional season in 2021.
While the Braves can manage Strider’s workload, it’s not easy to determine the best way to correct Anderson, who has proven himself while producing a 1.26 ERA through his first eight starts in the post-season.
“I’ve seen what he can do,” said manager Brian Snicker. “I have great confidence in him.”
Anderson combined for six innings while his last two games were in June against the Dodgers and the Phillies. He then allayed fears by actively promoting his next three starts, one against the cardinals and two against the natives.
But those concerns resurfaced as he allowed five straight strikes, including Taylor Ward’s home run, during Sunday’s first five rounds.
Anderson has scored a 6.62 ERA while producing an 18.2 percent strike rate and 12.9 percent gait rate over his past eight starts. He entered this stretch after scoring 4.53 ERAs while producing a 19.6 percent strike rate and 10.2 percent walking rate during his first 11 starts of the season.
Even while Anderson was near an average during the first two months of the season, he wasn’t as effective as he was in 2021, when he produced 3.58 ERAs with a 23.2 percent strike rate and 9.9 percent walking rate. Opponents have scored 355 on a percentage basis against him this year, which easily beats the 0.300 OBP that capitulated last year.
Anderson went into the All-Star break satisfied with the adjustments he made to improve fastball. But he didn’t get a single whiff with any of the 41 tailors who threw it against the angels. Competitors entered Saturday scoring .318 with an expected average hit of .288 for this throw. Last year, they hit 0.216 with 0.242 XBA against him.
“I know I’m not [a finished] Producer,” Anderson said. “I have a long way to go.”