Beyond the Numbers: Is This Tyler Anderson's Breakout Season?

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SCOTTSDALE Tyler Anderson is a pitching contradiction.

His statistics don’t add up.

But to see him is to appreciate him.

And the Rockies do. That’s why he is one of the four pitchers already set in the five-man rotation despite the fact he had a losing record last year (7-9), an ERA of 4.55, averaged a team-high 1.5 home runs per nine innings, a rotation-low 2.78 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and allowed 227 baserunners in 176 innings.

It’s not like the Rockies didn’t have alternatives to consider. Chad Bettis, Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela are all candidates for the fifth spot.

It’s just that the Rockies look past the surface numbers in assessing the lefthander.

“He’s always working to get better,” said pitching coach Steve Foster. “He is never satisfied. He’s always thirsty, hungry for more information. He has plenty of weapons to be successful.”

He has a full assortment of pitches. He has a determination to excel, and a cockiness that so often comes along with a front-line pitcher. He just doesn’t have the results to go with all that.

But. …

“He doesn’t fear contact,” said Foster. “He changes speeds. He is relentless, a fierce competitor. He hates to lose. He believes is good, he’s great.”

And last year he was a pitcher who was a victim of an erratic bullpen and streaky offense more than any other.

“No man on the planet, in all honesty, has as much confidence as this guy,” said Foster. “At the times it is a detriment, but confidence is something you put No. 1 on Tyler Anderson’s list. He believes he is good, he’s great.”

Go beyond the numbers and consider:

The one area that sticks out, however, is Anderson’s inability to work deep in a game. In his three-year, big-league career he has averaged 5.63 innings per start, and has 32 quality starts among his 66 starts.

By comparison, Kyle Freeland has 37 quality starts in 61 starts during his career; German Marquez 35 of 65, and Jon Gray 40 of 89.

That is a focus for Anderson this spring, who is coming off a quality effort on Tuesday, pitching two hitless innings, striking out three and walking one against the Brewers.

“He is implementing his curveball more, working to be more efficient and pitch deeper into a game,” said Foster. “

Anderson, however, has been challenged staying healthy, in part because of his own obsession to get better, which led to pushing himself beyond limits, at times.

The Rockies first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of Oregon, he suffered an elbow injury late in the 2014 season at Double-A, which cost him the entire 2015 season.

The challenge continued his first two years in the big leagues.

In 2016, a strained oblique sustained in spring training delayed his Major League debut, limiting him to 19 starts. In 2017, he was out from late June until early September because of left knee surgery.

"As an athlete, your mentality is, when things get tough, you like to push through and push a little harder," Anderson said. "At times when I got pretty sore, I would just try to throw through it. If my legs were sore, I thought maybe I need to work a little longer in the weight room instead of just cutting back."

And he is focused on getting better. How focused?

So focused that he keeps a book, detailing virtiually everything that occurs during one of his starts.

"I try to learn from my mistakes," he explained.

Manager Bud Black sees that as a foundation for Anderson to build on.

"As coaches, we gather information and take notes, looking for ways to help a player," said Black. "Tyler, in a sense, is his own coach, working on figuring out what is best for him. Not everybody can buy into that, but for Tyler it is valuable because of how his mind works."