Zach Britton just recently said in an interview that Brad Brach‘s stuff is “just as good if not better” than anyone in the Orioles bullpen. That is high praise for a guy in a bullpen that features himself and Darren O’Day.
Last offseason, Brach was acquired from the Padres for Devin Jones, a minor league pitcher who had a 7.23 ERA in Double-A San Antonio last season. I think it is safe to say the Orioles won that one.
With this being the typical Duquette depth move at the time, we did not know what to expect from Brach. Mainly brought up from Triple-A to be a long reliever, in his first month with the O’s he had a 4.76 ERA, .298 opponent average, 1.59 WHIP and .353 opponent BABIP. The bloated stats may have to do with a lack of appearances and having two rough outings, in which he three earned runs in 1.1 innings pitched and two earned runs in one inning pitched.
June was a little more kinder to the right hander, in which he delivered a 3.38 ERA, .182 opponent batting average, 1.20 WHIP, and a .235 opponent BABIP. In June, Brach appeared in seven games and only gave up earned runs. The bad side is that in one of those games, he gave up four runs in two innings pitched. The day after he gave up four runs, he was optioned to Norfolk, resulting in even less appearances.
Now here is where it gets fun: July. Brach’s numbers in July include 1.88 ERA, .146 opponent batting average, 0.70 WHIP, and a .177 opponent BABIP. That game where Brach gave up four runs in two innings? That happened on June 8; he would not give up another run until July 9, a whole month later. This scoreless streak followed his recall from Norfolk on June 19.
If you thought July was awesome, just wait for August. Not only did he have a 0.71 ERA, but he had a .174 opponent batting average, 1.11 WHIP and a .212 opponent BABIP. On July 29th, Brad Brach gave up one earned run. That would not happen again until August 31. That’s right; Brach went 12 straight appearances without giving up an earned run. Even those who don’t follow baseball know that is impressive.
September was not kind to Brach, however. During the month, he had a 5.91 ERA, .256 opponent batting average, 1.41 WHIP and a .273 opponent BABIP. I can contribute this mostly to possibly fatigue from his longest season in his career, or hitters figuring him out a little more.
Now, I would be more willing to say hitters figured him out, but he did only give up one hit in two playoff appearances. Yes I know; that is a super small sample and does not excuse a rough September by any means. However though, after four solid months, you can’t use one month to sum up his season.
Now the big question: can Brad Brach handle a bigger role in the Orioles bullpen? I say yes, and it is a very easy yes. Losing Andrew Miller will hurt the bullpen, but you have to remember that the Orioles bullpen was already one of the best in the league without him. Miller was more of a luxury than anything, helping the back end which now feels like it has suffered a lost, but can be easily refilled with a player already in the organization.
On every rough draft of the Orioles 25 man roster I have compiled in my head, Brad Brach made the team on all of them. Why is that? Well, when a guy with one of the best cut fastballs in baseball says you have the best stuff in the bullpen, you tend to make certain decisions easier for Buck. Now of course, he will have to earn his way onto the team, but he definitely has leverage over most people trying for a bullpen spot, which only makes the Spring Training competition better and more interesting.
Side note: if you can’t get behind Brach for his on-the-field abilities, you can at least get behind the fact that he was a fan of the Mets and whoever beat the Yankees, which resulted in him liking the Orioles and Cal Ripken, Jr. Also, his favorite food is pizza, so he is now my second personal favorite behind Jonathan Schoop.