Searching for Saves: Could The Giants’ Shaun Anderson Rise Into The Closer Role?

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by Ray Kuhn

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. While saves are one of 10 fantasy categories (depending on your league rules), and counted equally, there are never more than 15 available on any given day (except for those rare double headers). There are 30 closers, but only half of those teams will win and potentially have a chance at recording a save. So that means we can’t leave any stone unturned.

This brings us to Shaun Anderson. Currently Tony Watson is expected to be the Giants’ closer, but the left-hander hasn’t recorded a save since 2017 (when he had 10) and teams generally stay away from using southpaws in that role. While Watson had a history of being dependable, he isn’t overpowering (between seven and eight strikeouts per nine innings) and struggled last season (4.17 ERA and 4.81 FIP).

So Watson isn’t the ideal, or maybe not a preferred option, but it’s not like Anderson was all that impressive last year. Previously, Anderson was a starting pitching in the minor leagues (where he had some success), before moving to the bullpen towards the end of last season after struggling in the rotation with the Giants.

Overall, in 96 innings, Anderson had a 5.44 ERA along with a 4.77 FIP. After moving to the bullpen the right-hander had a 6.08 ERA in 13.1 innings, but the majority of those struggles came in one outing. Along the way he picked up two saves while striking out 15 and posting a 3.51 FIP.

A reliever striking out 6.56 batters per nine innings is never a good sign, but the ratio did improve after moving to the bullpen. That shouldn’t be surprising, as it allows Anderson to thin out his five pitch repertoire to two or three and he made some interesting strides towards the end of the season.

In the second half he focused more on his slider and that lead to his swinging strike rate increasing to 12.7%. Additionally the spin rate on his fastball ranks in the 90th percentile, so that will work in his favor.

I know we say it every year, but this is why there is value in not checking out of fantasy baseball in September, as Anderson’s two saves barely registered but could prove to have real value in 2020. If not, his 424 ADP doesn’t represent much in the way of risk.

1 COMMENT

  1. Anderson may have been a starter in the minors but he was a reliever throughout his career at the University of Florida, tying the team record for saves in his final season and being named a Stopper of the Year finalist by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. So he certainly has some familiarity with the closer role.

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