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It's time to end the Cody Anderson experiment

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Watching Anderson be really good for a handful games was fun, but that was almost a year ago. It's time to face reality with Big Country before this season gets away from the Indians.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into 2016, optimism about the Cleveland Indians rotation was high. A lot of it made sense: Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco were going to great of course, but the team's fifth starter, Cody Anderson was generating some excitement as well.

Some of the hype was warranted, perhaps. Anderson was coming off of a surprisingly effective 2015 campaign in which he finished with a 3.05 eaned run average after 15 starts. Even more encouragingly, Anderson was reported to have an uptick in velocity in spring training, sitting in the low- to mid-90s and hitting as high as 96. A guy that rarely walks anyone suddenly developing a killer fastball? Choo choo all aboard the hype train.

Unfortunately, anyone taking even a cursoury glance at Anderson's peripherals last season knew his 3.05 ERA was smoke and mirrors, and just throwing a ball harder doesn't make you a better pitcher. Both of these lessons Anderson, and the Indians, have learned the hard way.

Currently, in 2016, Anderson's ERA sits at 7.99 and his FIP at 6.46. Even his xFIP --  which regressing his home runs and assumes his HR/FB rate won't be a whopping 22.7 percent -- is at a less-than-ideal 4.61. The bottom line is that Anderson is just not a great pitcher. Not this season, not last season, not next season. This is not a knock against Anderson as a person or anything like that, he is just a below-average pitcher that had a great couple games to start his career and no one can seem to let that go.

We were all mesmerized by Anderson's first handful of starts in 2015. Over his first three outings last year (two against the Tampa Bay Rays), Cody lasted at least 7.2 innings and allowed two combined runs. Sure, he only struck out 10 total batters over 25.2 innings, but that surely wouldn't matter as long as he also did not walk anyone and he kept stranding every runner on base. Unfortunately, no matter how good of a pitcher you are, those runners are going to score eventually if you keep letting them get hits.

Anderson's strand rate evened out a bit over 2015, mostly due to a horrible streak of starts directly following his first three great outings, and at season's end he left 78.3 percent of the batters he faced on base. That was the sixth-highest strand rate of any American League starting pitcher with at least 90 innings in 2015. Skip ahead to 2016, and Anderson is stranding only 66.7 percent of the batters he has faced, one of the worst marks among AL starters with at least 30 innings pitched. All those hits that opponents are easily smacking off of Cody Anderson are finally finding their way home, for the simple reason that Anderson just has no way to get anyone out.

The velocity spike we saw from Anderson in spring training is very real. Last year, Anderson was averaging 93.3 mph on his fourseam fastball, and this year it has indeed jumped to 95.1 mph. It does not appear to be an April fluke either, as the velocity has held rather steady over every game in 2016:

He's throwing the ball hard, it's going faster, but the problem is that none of his pitches are any challenge to opposing batters.

Looking at FanGraphs' weighted pitch value -- which essentially boil down how effective a pitcher has been with x pitch then weights it in a similar fashion to offensive statistics like wRC+ or wOBA -- everything Anderson throws is towards the worst among American League starters with at least 20 innings in 2016. For a more familiar look at how bad each of his pitches has been, batting average against is also included.

Pitch Type Weighted Value Rank Times Thrown BA Against
Fastball -8.5 67 of 70 733 .371
Cutter -2.1 28 of 32 63 .318
Curveball -2.5 46 of 48 50 .500
Changeup -1.3 49 of 62 145 .236

The main argument I see against mercifully sending Anderson to Triple-A to play out his days and excellent minor league pitcher are small sample size, but that is just not the case. Big Country is not a pitching prospect who might just have a mechanical issue or two. His profile throughout the minor leagues has always been a guy who does not walk a lot of minor league players, but he cannot strike many out either. He is a pitcher who was called up to make a spot start or two last season, caused us all to get a little swept up in excitement with his first few starts, but was successful in a completely unsunstainable manner.

If the Indians did not have anyone viable to take Anderson's position, this whole point would be moot. But the Indians do have depth. Maybe not depth to correctly replace someone like Carlos Carrasco (then again, who does?), but the Triple-A Columbus Clippers have a pair (maybe even a trio) of pitchers who could take Anderson's place.

First and foremost is Mike Clevinger, who is a strikeout machine with a bit of a walk issue right now. Even with the 4.29 walks he issues per nine innings, he has kept his FIP down to 3.32 thanks to a 9.08 K/9 strikeout rate. Another potential option could be Ryan Merritt. My only fear with Merritt is that he's just another Anderson -- a guy who does not walk anyone but also cannot strike anyone out. But Merrit walks even fewer batters than Anderson did in his minor league career, so maybe there is hope there. At the very least, he is a perfectly fine option to come up for a start or two if the front office feels that Clevinger walks would be an issue at the major-league level.

Only once this season has Cody Anderson finished a start without giving up four or more runs. I have nothing against Anderson, I wish him the best, but there are better options for the Indians rotation right now. At the very least, if we see Anderson still in the rotation when Carlos Carrasco comes back, it's legitimately time to worry about how much trust Terry Francona and the rest of the coaching staff puts in him.