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Tyler Anderson wrote his own story in 2018

Anderson’s story of 2018 appears in his notebooks more than in headlines

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You’re reading the 2018 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2018. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.

★ ★ ★

No. 5, Tyler Anderson (3.0 rWAR)

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”

Joan Didion “On keeping a notebook” (1966)

“It is a fanatic approach, Anderson and his color-coded notebook. It is working, but he is continually tested.”

— Nick Groke “About that color-coded notebook

Tyler Anderson keeps in the Rockies dugout” (2018)

In 2018, Tyler Anderson often got lost in the discussion of the Rockies starting rotation. He wasn’t local kid Kyle Freeland with a following of Guys, Gals, Fans, and Freaks; he wasn’t German Márquez with 230 strikeouts and a new baby; he wasn’t Jon Gray with the sabermetric mystery and great hair; he wasn’t Antonio Senzatela, a late addition to the roster who showed he could grind through games many thought he couldn’t. In a rotation of stories, Anderson was often overlooked, even though he appeared in 32 games and pitched 176 innings. Run a Google search, and the big profiles and interviews just aren’t there.

In terms of quirks — besides his Twitter account (@andersontj08) being hacked during the summer — Tyler Anderson stood out because he kept a notebook, but let’s come back to that.

First, the numbers. He finished the season with a 4.55 ERA, 4.82 DRA, and 4.57 FIP. This happened despite seven tough starts in August and early September — he earned a 10.13 ERA during that time. A pitcher who induced flyballs or line drives on 82.6% of balls in play, Anderson gave up 30 home runs, a number that tied for most in the National League. (Anderson’s BaseballSavant Pitcher Visualization Report is available here.)

In an attempt to improve his pitching, Tyler Anderson keeps a notebook, a habit he picked up in 2014 while with Double-A Tulsa. Nick Groke has written the lone article on this subject:

The book is crammed with scouting notes and diagrams and boxes filled with red or black pen, squares that match the strike zone illustrated as inky heatmaps. There are scribbles and shorthand, his reactions on hitters and his observations of pitches. It’s like a Pee-Chee folder come to life.

“I’m trying to learn from my mistakes,” Anderson said.

Everything about this is fascinating: Anderson as a lifelong learner; his compulsion to keep his own notes; the suggestion of his learning style; his reliance on a charmingly outdated technology, an Oregon-Ducks-green notebook and color-coded pens. The notebook tells us a lot about Anderson. It suggests that he is trying to organize the chaos of baseball.

Here’s how manager Bud Black sees it: “He’s a student, more than anything . . . He observes and gathers information. As coaches, we gather information and take notes. But Tyler, in a sense, is his own coach.” Black continues, “Tyler is starting to figure out what’s best for him . . . . His notes, his thoughts, his observations in games, it’s great. But it’s not for everybody. For Tyler, it works because of how his mind works.”

So for Black, Anderson’s notebook and approach to pitching suggest a student diligently studying for the next test. That is an important function of a well kept notebook and the sign of a pitcher trying to improve.

As Anderson explains of his notebook, “It’s hard to remember every single pitch sometimes, in the heat of the moment . . . I like to know what I did.”

This comment suggests that more than taking notes, Anderson is keeping a kind of personal journal, a common practice for writers and artists and anyone keeping track of where they’ve been and what they’ve done. It’s a way of understanding how the person they once were is becoming the person they are.

Joan Didion, one of America’s most well known essayists, has written that those who keep notebooks tend to keep to themselves. I was reminded of this passage while watching Anderson in the dugout. When pitchers are between innings, they are generally left alone, except for occasional discussions with managers and catchers. When Tyler Anderson is left alone to do whatever he needs to do before the next inning, he is writing, taking notes on what he has done as he prepares for what he will do next. In a time of high-tech baseball, the practice seems almost quaint, but notebooks and learning styles are notoriously personal, and as Anderson’s numbers show, for him, it has (mostly) worked. It takes resiliance to come back from a slump and pitch successfully in the post-season, which is exactly what Anderson did.

Didion begins one of her most well known essays with this sentence: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Or, if you’re Tyler Anderson, to pitch.