As Neo was flummoxed by seeing the black cat twice, so have us fantasy nerds been when breaking down Tim Anderson. He doesn’t walk, is a free swinger and everything is BABIP-fueled. Yet, year after year he hits over .300 with a sky-high BABIP and provides a healthy amount of home runs and steals. Over the last five years, Mr. Anderson has the 122nd and 191th best seasons on the Razzball Player Rater. This season, though, the BABIP has come down, which has brought the batting average down. Is it finally happening? The most troubling thing is that the power has completely disappeared. Time to cue up the Nancy Kerrigan and scream along…..”Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyy????!!!!”
Mr. Anderson is 29 years old, 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. The Chicago White Sox selected him with the 17th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft.
He advanced through the minor league system quickly (a little over three seasons). Not much has changed in the hitting profile. The walk rate was below 5% while the strikeout rate was in the low-20% range. The BABIP was sky-high in every season, approaching .400 in two seasons. The power wasn’t robust, as the ISO never got over .175. The speed was always there, though. He stole 49 bases in Double-A during the 2015 season.
Once he got to the majors, the walk rate remained middling while the strikeout rate ticked up to the high-20% range. The power did start to develop, as the ISO was in the .140 range and ticked up to the .170s before peaking at .207 during the 2020 season. Well, that was the happy fun ball season, so an ISO in the .150 range is probably the sweet spot for Mr. Anderson.
The high BABIP continued into the majors. Prior to this season, there was only one season in which the BABIP wasn’t high, and that was during the 2018 season when the BABIP was .289. He slashed .240/.281/.406 that season with 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases while posting a .166 ISO. So, Mr. Anderson has shown that he can have success without the high BABIP.
It’s just that we have come to expect that from him because he hit .335, .322, .309, and .301 while the BABIP was .399, .383, .372, and .347 respectively the next four seasons.
This season, the slash is .244/.284/.283. The walk rate is 5.2% while the strikeout rate is 19.4%. Last season, the strikeout rate was 15.7% while the ISO was .093. So a change started then.
Let’s dig in to see if we can uncover anything.
Looking at the Statcast data, the average exit velocity is 89 mph, the second-highest of his career. The maxEV is only 107.6 mph, though, the lowest of his career. The launch angle is a laughable -0.2 degrees. The Gopher Society has begun picketing White Sox games. The barrel rate is 5.9%, far below the 7.8% and 10.1% during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but it was below 5% the three seasons before those. The hard hit rate is at 49.5%, the highest of his career. So, he’s hitting the ball hard, but instead of making dents in the jet stream, he is creating craters on the field.
The batted ball data shows that the GB/FB ratio is a ridiculous 4.4. How ridiculous you ask? Since 1871, there has only been one batter who had a GB/FB ratio above 4, and that was Joey Gathright with a 4.47. Mr. Anderson currently has a ground ball rate of 65.3%. Only six players in the history of the baseball have had a number over 60%. Mr. Anderson’s career mark is 52.5%. The fly ball rate is obviously down to 14.9% but a 0% HR/FB mark will improve. Even last season, that number was 10.3%. The approach still looks solid, as he’s utilizing all areas of the field.
Now for the plate discipline numbers. Mr. Anderson is still swinging at 78% of pitches in the zone because that’s what Mr. Anderson does. The chase rate has declined, though, to 35%. That number has been over 40% for much of his career. The contact rates have dipped – 84% in the zone and 75.8% overall. The swinging strike rate is 12.9%, which is high but still lower than the career 14.1% number.
I don’t think Mr. Anderson is a .150 ISO batter anymore, but I don’t think he’s a sub .100 ISO hitter either. Somewhere in the low .100 range seems right.
To start the season, Mr. Anderson was slashing .298/.327/.404 with a 4.1% walk rate, 20.4% strikeout rate, .106 ISO, and .378 BABIP in 49 plate appearances. Then he suffered a knee injury and missed around three weeks. Since returning, he’s slashing .213/.259/.213 with a 5.9% walk rate, 18.8% strikeout rate, .000 ISO, and .266 BABIP in 85 plate appearances.
The timing is off and the knee could still be bothering him. Since returning, he’s stolen two bases in 20 games. The most troubling thing for me is that the launch angle has decreased every season since 2018, from 10.8 to 8.7 to 6.7 to 4.3 to 3.3 and to this season’s -0.2. So, I wouldn’t expect much in the power department, but I could see stolen bases and the BABIP and batting average to improve as the season progresses. He’s likely free in some leagues so I’d scoop if available because he bats leadoff and does have some upside.