Noah’s Column: The Ryan Brasier Experience 


Like many Red Sox fans, I questioned many recent moves the team has made. One thing that has been incredibly confusing is the fact that 35-year-old reliever Ryan Brasier is still on this roster. On the surface, Brasier just had his worst season. At season’s end he racked up a 5.78 ERA, an ERA+ of 73 and a WAR of -0.8. To clarify, ERA+ is a great measure of how well a pitcher is performing against league average. League average is always 100 and Brasier finished well below that mark. Recently, rumors have spread claiming Brasier has dirt on the front office and that’s why he’s remained on the team. This poses an important question: why is Brasier still here? I dug into his advanced statistics to find the answers. 

Taking a deeper look at his numbers, his FIP was 3.61 for this past season. That account’s for a 2.17 difference between his FIP and ERA, which analytics would say was unlucky. FIP, or fielding independent pitches, is one of the most prominent statistics used in today’s game. It is meant to focus solely on the outcomes a pitcher can control, taking fielders out of the equation, thus describing how effective a pitcher is. Big differences in FIP and ERA typically mean that a pitcher was lucky, or they were unlucky like Brasier in 2022. As there was a significant difference, it means that Brasier should have made better numbers than he did. You could argue that because FIP only counts strikeouts, home runs, hit batters and unintentional walks that it isn’t reliable, but analytics would disagree. A pitcher can’t control what happens when a ball is put into play, so it doesn’t represent their performance. So how else can hits be accounted for? 

Another measure taken into consideration is BAbip, or batting average on balls in play, meaning batting average for balls that can be fielded. This can be used for both pitchers and batters and is another luck indicator used by front offices. Brasier’s BAbip for the 2022 season was his career highest at .335, meaning batted balls against Brasier resulted in a hit roughly 33.5% of the time. League average for this statistic is usually around 0.297, resulting in the conclusion that Brasier was pretty unlucky in this category too. In addition to that, the Red Sox did not have a good defense at all in 2022. Statistically, they were No. 16 in baseball for fielding percentage, but if you watched them, it looked worse than that. The best example of this can be seen on July 22 of last year when the Blue Jays came to town. Toronto put on a relentless display, scoring 28 runs on what was a dismal night for the Sox. What caused such a big loss? Defense. 

On paper it looks as if the Red Sox made only two errors that game, but they made a lot of defensive mistakes. The play people remember most came when Raimel Tapia, now a Red Sox himself, hit a fly ball deep to center. Boston outfielder Jarren Duran was staring up at the sky with no clue where the ball was. The ball landed about 20 feet behind him, allowing all four runners to come home in what was an inside-the-park grand slam. If you didn’t watch the Red Sox last season, that just about sums up how their defense looked. To fix this, the team went out and signed former Gold Glove Outfielder Adam Duvall and acquired slick Infielder Adalberto Mondesi to fill in the gaps. This should fix all the areas of his statistics that Brasier can’t impact himself, also helping the rest of the pitching staff as well. Now with an upgraded defense, how are the Red Sox looking to improve Brasier’s game? 

The last thing I checked in my research was Baseball Savant, which gives a look into even more advanced metrics. In 2022, Ryan Brasier used his slider 43% of the time, 10% more than any other season previously. Also of note, Brasier barely used his changeup at a rate of only 1%. His previous low for his changeup was 4%, so it seems as if he had switched up his routine. If you read into his numbers, a lot of his success seems to come from his fastball usage. When he uses his fastball 60% of the time or more, his ERA is below four. This can be seen in 2018, 2020 and 2021. While only pitching in 13 games, he used his fastball 69% of the time in 2021 resulting in an ERA of 1.50. If he utilizes his fastball more, he may have the potential to be effective. 

It can also be argued that Brasier was overworked, and it affected his numbers. He put up career highs in both appearances (68) and innings pitched (62.1) coming off an injury riddled 2021 campaign. Boston has since added four relievers (Jansen, Martin, Bleier and Rodriguez) that can help take the pressure off Brasier. Depth should allow Brasier to get more rest between appearances, helping preserve his arm for the season and potentially make him more effective. 

At the end of the day, I’m still not the biggest Ryan Brasier fan. Advanced analytics say that he was pretty unlucky this past season, but he seems easily replaceable. Boston’s view of him is a little different than my own. They see him as a cheap relief option with the potential to play a dominant role in their bullpen, as he has before. Adding bullpen depth and better fielders while also changing his pitch usage should benefit Brasier significantly enough to keep him. Boston’s front office is hoping that with these changes, Brasier can find some luck and help their staff out once again. 

Leave a Reply