This preview was written by Shawn Coleman, who posts here as Bravesbeast1985.
This off-season has been filled with frustration and disappointment at times. Our dealings with "Furcalgate", and the missed opportunities with Abreu, Dunn, and Griffey, have left a sour taste with many a Braves fan. However, the beauty of missed opportunities in baseball, for me, just adds to the excitement I feel when the Braves actually take action to fill a need. In the case of Garrett Anderson, I feel the excitement is justified.
While speaking with MLB.com in a recent webcast previewing the Braves Season, GM Frank Wren did a great job describing Anderson as a "professional hitter" and "a bat that will extend the lineup." These are two very good descriptions of Anderson's approach at the plate. As the stats below show, while Anderson does like to swing the bat, he is disciplined and consistent in the swings he takes:
Year AB BB/PA K/AB BABIP
2006 543 1/15.03 1/5.71 .343
2007 417 1/15.44 1/7.72 .340
2008 557 1/19.02 1/7.23 .339
These numbers show that, while Anderson may not have the power he once did, his ability to make productive contact will mesh very well with the good on-base skills of the hitters at the top of the Braves lineup.
I admit that I was in the crowd that wanted to take care of many needs at once with our LF addition, as I wanted a prototypical right-handed clean-up hitter. Continuing with the message from the numbers above, while Anderson is obviously in the latter stages of his career and bats left-handed, he has shown the ability to offer middle of the order run production. Over the past three years combined, Anderson has posted these lines against the pitching he has faced:
Against LHP: .275/.309/.414
Against RHP: .293/.335/.465
These numbers show that Anderson is an asset more than a liability no matter where he bats in the lineup, and that he will produce numbers to justify his place in the middle of the lineup. Furthermore, I would feel safe in saying it is a unanimous opinion that a good middle of the order hitter must be good with runners on-base. These are the figures Anderson has generated from 2006-2008 with runners on, and for added emphasis, compared to the player we lost that made us "settle for" Garret:
Runners on: .261/.359/.492 .304/.350/.477
RISP: .239/.365/.456 .301/.359/.439
RISP w/2 Out: .214/.393/.394 .279/.349/.391
As the numbers above show, Anderson has been the better bet with the pressure high over the past three years. As a result, he should continue to be the better option to produce.
With any bat in the lineup, there comes the other side of the spectrum -- their defensive ability. Anderson does not have the range he once did, and his arm has become weaker with age, but he still does possess enough athletic prowess to make the routine and expected plays -- though I would feel safe in assuming that our starting center fielder will be shaded toward left field the majority of the time.
To repeat, General Manager Frank Wren put it best with his description of Anderson as "a bat that extends the line-up." Most of my excitement comes from the anticipation of seeing Anderson's offensive strengths gelling with the skills of our other players. With the evidence above as support, Anderson is still a difficult out to get, and his consistency no matter the situation validates he should be reliable in the middle of our order in 2009. I believe a healthy 70%-30% playing time split between Anderson and Diaz will enhance the quality of our line-up depth and production, and should allow Anderson to be reflected upon as one of the better "bargains" of this off-season in all of baseball.
Excellent preview by Shawn, I thoroughly enjoyed it as I hope you did.