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The Brad Brach signing by the numbers

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Getting to know the Cubs new righthander.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s been a slow offseason on the north side of Chicago, but finally on Thursday there was some movement. The Cubs signed 33-year-old Brad Brach to a one-year, $3 million contract. At the end of 2019 they can choose to exercise a mutual option for 2020 that would bring the total value of the two-year deal to $9.5 million. If the Cubs do not exercise the option they are on the hook for a $1.35 million buyout, bringing Brach’s guaranteed deal for 2019 to $4.35 million.

Got all of that? What can I say, free agent deals are complex in this crazy labor market.

But the contract details aren’t what I wanted to highlight here, this piece is your one-stop shop for a different set of numbers. Specifically, I wanted to take a look at Brach’s pitch makeup and how he compares to the league average reliever.

The pitches

Brach throws a four-seam fastball that sits right around 95 miles per hour about 53 percent of the time. He supplements that pitch with an 86 mph change up that he throws about 25 percent of the time and an 84 mph slider that he throws about 18 percent of the time. He rarely mixes in a sinker that sits around 92. You can see the velocity on all of his pitches below:

Brach velocity by pitch type
Brooks Baseball

You can get a better idea of his pitch usage in the next chart, you’ll notice he increased his reliance on his changeup in 2015:

Brach usage by pitch type
Brooks Baseball

The results

Brach’s ERA has hovered around league average for the last few years but his FIP indicates that he has actually been better than the league average pitcher since at least 2016 after he started using his change up more.

Brach FIP by MLB average
Fangraphs

Brach’s pitches generate a lot of swing and miss and he’s tended to strike out a lot of guys. He has closing experience with the Orioles, however, for 2019 I have to imagine he is third or fourth in line in the Cubs bullpen for closing situations. He has historically tended to strike out more batters than the league average pitcher, although that was not the case for the first time in 2018:

Brach K% by MLB average
Fangraphs

Whether he was intentionally pitching to contact or not, 2018 saw his ground ball rate improve to better than the league average pitcher. It will be interesting to see if he profiles more as a strikeout guy or a ground ball guy at Wrigley Field:

Brach ground ball percentage by MLB average
Fangraphs

As Al noted yesterday, Brach had a particularly strong finish to 2018, turning in a 1.52 ERA over 23⅔ innings for the Braves to finish the season. While batters only hit .234 against him during that stretch, he was substantially outperforming his FIP of 3.12 so I imagine those numbers will regress a bit.

Intangibles

Since 2014 Brach has been good for anywhere between 62⅓ and 79⅓ innings per season. He’s thrown most of those innings for the Baltimore Orioles. I don’t need to remind you that the Cubs have had success bringing pitchers over from Baltimore before. Perhaps more interesting to me is that Brach’s time in the Padres system overlaps with Jed Hoyer’s time as their general manager.

Brach profiles as a solid middle reliever who has shown the capacity to do a lot more particularly over the last three seasons. He bolsters the Cubs bullpen nicely from the right side and should be capable of pitching the seventh or eighth innings on a regular basis if necessary.