Small Adjustment Could Play Big Dividends for Sox Prospect Anderson
Heading into the 2009 season, the Boston Red Sox had high hopes for their top minor league prospect, first baseman Lars Anderson. The Red Sox’ eighteenth round pick in the 2006 as an eighteen year old, the 6’5” Anderson flew through the Sox’ system, reaching Double A as a twenty year old before the end of the 2008 season.
As Spring Training commenced in 2009, Boston had hopes Anderson would continue with his rapid progression; another half season in Double A, followed by a mid-season promotion to Triple A Pawtucket. A good season would have been rewarded with a September call-up, with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League a requisite to a legitimate chance to make the 2010 opening day roster. Even if he had stumbled in either one of his final two hypothetical assignments, another half season in Rhode Island wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.
Anderson even spent some time with the main squad in spring training, with starting first baseman Kevin Youkilis off playing in the World Baseball Classic. Anderson played well at times, but was also overmatched at times in his first true exposure to major league pitching.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Anderson’s development ground to a resounding halt midway through the 2009 season. Anderson suffered through progressively terrible year, eventually playing himself so far out of the Sox’ immediate future they showed up at the recent Winter Meetings looking for a first baseman.
Now, it must be mentioned there have been reports Anderson suffered back problems during the season. Looking through his season http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=1B&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=502249 stats there initially doesn’t seem to be an issue, but, hey, it’s his back, not ours.
Anderson played 119 of a possible 140 games during the season, with not one single day spent on the disabled list, yet all his games missed were after the All-Star break. It’s certainly possible he tweaked something at some point, but, again, whatever the case, it wasn’t serious enough to take up temporay residence on the DL. If one were to look at his splits in detail, however, there is a definite downward spike in his numbers from the first half to the second. Named to the mid season Eastern League All-Star team, Anderson hit .272/8/42 in the first half (79 games), but just .154/1/9 (40 games) during the second half.
Looking even further, however, one can see right from the beginning of the season something wasn’t quite right, as sandwiched between a .293 April and a .298 June was a .194 May. And this was after a .316 August and September showing in 2008 against the same level of competition.
Something is amiss here, and I know what it is.
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&source=hp&q=lars%20anderson&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv#hl=en&source=hp&q=lars+anderson&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv&qvid=lars+anderson&vid=-1301200176607420190 Right here.
As mentioned, Anderson is six foot five, yet at the time of his drafting, was listed at just 195 pounds. He’s filled out somewhat, during his 2009 spring training physical was listed at 212, noticeably bigger, of course, but still not overly so for a guy that tall.
But it’s his height that’s the issue, not his weight.
In scouting terms, Anderson is known as being “self-contradictory”. An infielder who moves perfectly into position to field a ground ball, catches it cleanly, then throws to first base off his RIGHT foot is self-contradictory, as one throws off his left foot. A pitcher who begins his wind-up and stops, only to start up again, is self-contradictory; are you picturing Hideo Nomo, yet?
As you can see from the video, Anderson is self-contradictory in his set-up.
But I’m not going to explain or prove it to you; you all are going to prove it to yourselves. No previous playing experience required.
OK, all you need is a mirror. Doesn’t have to be full length, mid-chest up is fine.
So we’re all on the same page to begin, optimum hitting position is slightly closed, meaning, for a lefty, (not because Anderson is, but because I am), your feet, hips and shoulders are slightly closed to the pitcher. If someone were to come up behind you and draw a line from the toes of your back foot, through the toes of your front foot, and outwards 150 feet, it would pass through the infield approximately halfway between the shortstop position and the second base bag.
And, to clarify a common misconception, the description of a player’s stance, open, closed or square, is NOT defined by the position of his feet. The position of the hips and shoulders is the determining factor; Luis Gonzalez was considered to hit from an open stance not because his feet pointed towards the second baseman, but because his hips and shoulders did as well.
Now put your hands in a hitting position, as if you really were waiting for a pitch. In your “optimum” position, your top (left) hand is even with your left ear, with your upper left arm perpendicular to the floor. If you are in the right position here, a straight line could be drawn from your neck to your elbow.
Now, peek down and look at your feet. At this point I’m really not concerned where they are, although they should be no worse than square. Personally, about six inches closed is preferable, a straight line from the toes of your back foot to the pitcher should pass through the instep of your front foot.
If you look at the video of Anderson, and considering the camera angle, his feet are pretty severely open, while his hands are, in reality, almost perfect. (The motion of his hands is a trigger, and while a separate issue in itself, not part of this discussion).
OK, now to show you the “self-contradiction” to Anderson’s set-up.
Here’s where you should be. Feet square to slightly closed. Hands up, top (left) hand even with the left ear.
Now, looking down at your feet, reverse their position. The back foot should be closer to the plate, with the line from your front foot dissecting the back at the instep. While switching your feet, nothing else should have moved.
Now look at the mirror.
See where your elbow and hands are? You really didn’t MOVE them, they did so on their own because you have changed your setup. You have gone from a “body” hitter to a “hands” hitter.
If you did this move correctly, your left elbow should have dropped about four inches, if you’re tall like Anderson, maybe as much as six. Your top hand is now even with your chin.
Why did this happen? Send an email to with your PayPal account information, and for a Dugout Central only discount price of $99.95, I’ll tell you. (Hey, tough economy…nothing’s free anymore).
OK, fine, I’m kidding. Whatever.
The more your feet are open, the more you use your hands in the swing. For a lefty who is pulling the ball, by the time the swing is complete, you’ve essentially taken your first step towards first base without moving your feet, just because of the way your weight shifts. But because you set up with the feet open, in order to make contact in a square position, you’ve actually moved your body AWAY from your target (first base). So, to compensate, for the feet to remain open, or semi-open at contact, the player must start his hands closer to the impact zone.
If I worked in the Sox organization, I would leave Anderson alone…from the waist up. Other than the hand motion, he’s pretty much perfect. All I would do is close his feet, maybe spread them out a bit. The extra fractions of a second he would gain would help him with his pitch recognition, once he starts trusting in the change and “re-believing” in his ability, he should regain his projection as a plus hitter.
While Lars Anderson’s prospect status has fallen somewhat in the past year, he still hasn’t fallen far enough to be considered “suspect”. A small adjustment in his set-up should erase those doubts, and put him back on track to be a regular in the Red Sox lineup.
Better late than never.