Examining Tim Anderson's Puzzling Collapse

Chicago White Sox v New York Mets
Chicago White Sox v New York Mets / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

Tim Anderson was once one of baseball's most feared players. The Chicago White Sox shortstop was often mentioned alongside Ronald Acuña and Fernando Tatis Jr. in discussions of MLB's most exciting players. Then something happened. Over the past two seasons, Anderson's performance has fallen off a cliff and he's currently stumbling through a lost 2023 season. Injuries have impacted Anderson, but that can't be the only explanation.

In 76 games this season, Anderson is hitting .241, with an on-base percentage of .281, while slugging .283. His .564 OPS is almost comically low, his OPS+ of 57 is miserable, as is his wRC+ of 56 and he's posted an fWAR of -0.5 and a bWAR of -1.1. Those numbers mean a guy who was an MVP candidate a few years ago is actively hurting his team every time he steps on the field. It's also worth noting, Anderson hasn't hit a home run this season and it has actually been more than a year since he hit one. He only has 12 extra base hits (12 doubles, one triple) this season in 311 at-bats.

He dealt with a knee sprain in April and had some shoulder soreness in June, but neither injury was catastrophic or required surgery. Maybe that's the explanation, but he's been trending downwards for a while.

Things began to go a bit south in 2022. Anderson struggled with a groin injury and only played 79 games. But he still managed to hit .301 with an on-base percentage of .339. His slugging percentage of .395 was a career-low, but thanks to his other metrics, his wRC+ was 110 and his fWAR creeped up to 2.0. A torn hand ligament ended his season in August.

It's worth remembering, this is a guy who hit 20 home runs in 2018, 18 in 2019, 10 in the shortened 2020 season and 17 in 2021. There's power there. In 2019 he won the AL batting title while hitting .335 and had his best season -- we're kind of throwing out 2020 since it was weird -- when he slashed .335/.357/.508 with an OPS of .865, an fWAR of 4.5 and a wRC+ of 128. In 2021, he had a similarly solid season, slashing .309/.338/.469 with a wRC+ of 119.

So what has happened? It's hard to say. His isolated power has fallen off the face of the earth, dropping from .207 in 2020 to .093 in 2022 and .042 in 2023.

Again, maybe an accumulation of injuries has caused Anderson's regression. That's certainly possible. But A look at his Statcast pages from the last two seasons show a rapidly changing player.

Those are some alarming trends for the White Sox. They hold a $14 million club option on Anderson for the 2024 season they are almost sure to exercise at this point. But it's becoming increasingly likely Chicago will make Anderson available at the trade deadline so the franchise doesn't have to make that decision. The Sox are potentially looking to make that someone else's problem to solve.

Anderson will hit free agency in 2025 at 32 years old. A guy who probably projected to get a deal in the range of what Xander Bogaerts received (11 years, $280 million) is currently looking at a one-year, prove-it contract unless he completely turns things around in 2024.