For Ian Anderson, it was a blessing in disguise that the Atlanta Braves had so many issues with their starting pitchers this season. The youngster impressed in spring training and was placed on a 60-man list that could potentially get him called up to the big leagues during the shortened season due to COVID-19.
On August 25 that childhood dream became a reality. Anderson made his debut just a day later against the New York Yankees, surrendering just one run across six innings of one-hit baseball. During the 2020 season, the former first-round pick tossed 32.1 innings while making six starts, posting an impressive 1.95 ERA and striking out 41 hitters in the process.
But it’s what Anderson has done in the postseason that has really turned heads. The 22-year-old has made three starts for Atlanta and is yet to give up a run. Those starts came against the Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, and, most recently, a potent Los Angeles Dodgers lineup in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night. The youngster absolutely shoved, giving up just one hit in four scoreless frames. Anderson wasn’t as sharp as previous starts, as he did give up five free passes. However, he kept his team in the game.
For his age, it’s unheard of to be this dominant right off the bat in the heat of October. He has also made history, becoming the first Atlanta Braves pitcher to not give up a run in three consecutive playoff appearances.
Changeup Paving the Way for His Success
Blessed with a mid-90s fastball and a hammer of a breaking ball, it’s actually his changeup that has helped Anderson enjoy such immediate success at the big-league level. He throws the pitch relatively hard in the high 80s but is able to throw it consistently for strikes. In fact, it’s his second-most used pitch, throwing the change 30.8 percent of the time.
Opposing lineups are also hitting just .104 against the offering, and no one has even registered a hit off the pitch in the postseason. It comes out of the same arm slot as the heater, but the change has a nice sink to it. Even though it comes in pretty quick, his ability to locate the changeup has been vital to the success of the pitch.
It’s the fact that Anderson throws a fastball-changeup combo so often that fools hitters. He can ramp it up into the high 90s, and if he throws one right after a changeup, it looks even quicker out of his hand after slowing down the hitter’s bat with the off-speed stuff.
Anderson Deserves a Spot in the Braves Rotation Moving Forward
Ian Anderson has proved that he has what it takes to compete in the big leagues. Even with Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels set to return next year after suffering season-ending injuries in 2020, a spot in the rotation should be there for Anderson. He has been their most reliable pitcher since he came up to the majors in late August and will be an important part of their staff moving forward as they look to advance to their first World Series since 1999.