Baltimore Orioles reliever Brad Brach has struggled this year after being a fairly dominant reliever the past few seasons. So is he really this bad?
Baltimore Orioles reliever Brad Brach has been a dominant reliever over the past few seasons. From 2014 through 2017, Brach never had an ERA above 3.18 and maintained a 10+ K/9 in two of those four seasons.
He also served admirably in place of injured closer Zach Britton last year, racking up 18 saves over 68 innings pitched. It was thought that he would do that again this year, but he’s struggled mightily this year, pitching to a 4.60 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP over 15.2 innings pitched. So is he really this bad, or is he a victim of bad luck?
The answer is a mixed bag. First off, there have been some actual problems with Brach this year that haven’t been there in the past—most notably with his fastball. Generally, his fastball has been his best pitch, drawing a 12.6 pVAL last year and a 13.5 pVAL the year before.
More from Baltimore Orioles
- What other Baltimore Orioles Offseason Storylines will you be interested in seeing?
- Baltimore Orioles to Face Numerous Playoff Contenders Down the Stretch
- Baltimore Orioles Showing Encouraging Signs During Recent Wins
- The Baltimore Orioles and the Expanded September Roster
- Orioles Josh Rogers Expectations in his Major League Debut
But this year, Brach has had trouble controlling the pitch, throwing it in the zone just 49.3% of the time, compared to 60.3% of the time last year. While the pitch is still generating a solid 14% whiff rate, the control needs to be better, and it’s that lack of control that’s likely behind the .336 wOBA opposing hitters have against the pitch (compared to .257 last year and .251 the year before).
That being said, there’s plenty of reason to say that Brach has been the victim of some pretty bad luck too. Specifically, when you look at his peripherals, there’s reason to believe things will get better. While he does have a 4.60 ERA, he’s also got a 2.96 FIP and a 3.53 SIERA along with a .391 BABIP.
In fact, there’s reason to be somewhat optimistic, because Brach’s changeup—his best strikeout pitch—has gotten better. Brach’s changeup is a beautiful pitch, and when it’s working, it’s deadly:
So far this year, opposing hitters are slashing .375/.412/.563 against the pitch but a lot of that is driven by a .462 BABIP against the pitch as well. I expect those numbers to regress significantly, especially when you look at the strikeout numbers against the pitch.
Brach’s changeup has generated a 29.1% whiff rate and a 61% chase rate on the year so far. Those numbers are superb and lead me to believe that the batted ball numbers against the pitch are going to get better. When a pitch is performing that well in the strikeout department, it’s not often that hitters are also able to tee off on it, especially since he’s controlling it just about as well as he did last year.
So in short, no, Brad Brach isn’t this bad. He’s got some control issues to work out with his fastball, and those are certainly important, but more than likely he’s going to get back to last year’s form. And if he’s able to keep up his 11.49 K/9, he might be even better.