If you needed any reason as to why the Oakland Athletics named 25-year old Brett Anderson as the team’s Opening Day starter, you only have to go back to the team’s last win by a starter.
That would have been on October 9, in the AL division series that saw the A’s down in a two-game hole in the five-game series against the Detroit Tigers.
They needed a win to stay alive then, and they called on their best pitcher, which just happened to be a kid who’d only thrown 35 innings in the regular season as a result of having to come back from Tommy John surgery.
Despite the relative inexperience, Anderson delivered. The lefty gave the A’s six innings of two-hit ball, holding the Tigers scoreless while striking out six. He not only gave the team a chance to win the game – he gave them the belief that they could come back in the series.
The A’s lost in a do-or-die Game 5, but they would not have gotten there if not for their ace.
It’s not a word thrown around lightly, considering that the rest of the team had a group of rookie pitchers that carried the team all the way to the playoffs even with Anderson’s absence. But, it’s exactly what he’s poised to be in 2013.
Forget for a moment that he’s the most tenured A’s pitcher, even at just the age of 25. Anderson also happens to be the team’s most talented arm right now – as long as he’s healthy, anyway. To prove it, there was the 2.80/1,19 ERA/WHIP he’d put up over 112.1 innings in 2010 before he ran into elbow problems, and the 2.84/1.10 ratio his first 11 starts in 2011 before that same elbow blew up and needed surgery.
In 2012, coming off the layoff, Anderson barely missed a beat, allowing just a two earned runs his his first four starts before an oblique injury took him out until the playoffs.
Yes, health may be a problem, but the talent was never in doubt.
That’s the reason why he’s going to be starting for the A’s on Opening Day, and so far in Spring Training, he’s done nothing to show the team why they should change their mind.
In his first outing for Oakland on Thursday, Anderson was in ace form, pitching a near-perfect two innings, allowing just a single and striking out one. Sure, it was against the lowly Chicago Cubs, but the left-hander had his stuff working, drawing contact that led to ground balls on almost every single at bat (4.00 GB/FB).
It’s an evolution that Anderson has gone through over his career, as he came up to the bigs with a 1.49 GB/FB ratio, eventually building that up to 3.59 last season. That’s the kind of refinement and polish that has the team ready to put him – and not Jarrod Parker or Bartolo Colon – out there when the season starts.
By the looks of it, Anderson is ready to take that role for a full season for the first time in his young career.