2022 In One Sentence
Almost every time a win was direly needed in 2022, the game was left in the hands of Ryan Brasier, who promptly made a mockery of that decision but kept his job because somehow there were even worse options.
Do you remember when you’d get in trouble for arguing with your siblings as a kid, and your parents made you say something nice about them and vice versa, and the best you could come up with was some backhanded compliment, and so you stayed grounded? Well, you now know how I feel having to compliment Ryan Brasier, and if you don’t know how I feel, you probably will by the end of this article. So, at the request of Dan Secatore, I will say a few good things about how, at 35-years-old, he’s actually increasing his velocity. He topped out at 97 miles per hour and his 4-seam fastball was clocked in at 95.9 average velocity, which according to Baseball Savant, was almost a mile-per-hour increase, even if it had decreased about the same amount from 2018. 2022 also saw the re-emergence of his sinker, which he threw 114 times for an average of 96.1 miles per hour.
Now, as this is an article about Brasier’s ability, I need to state that this sinker was hit for a .459 average and the four-seamer was hit for a .320 average, including a 57% hard-hit percentage, which was in the bottom third percentile in the league. Those numbers are…. umm… not good! Coupled with the fact that Boston used him for 62.1 innings, that all, to me, sounds especially… how do I say… umm… not good!
But this is the positives section, so I’ll save the griping for the remainder of this article. Brasier, who joined the team in 2018 following a stint in Japan on the other end of an MLB sandwich that featured an unsuccessful stint on the Angels and a minor league contract with the A’s, showed an exceptional amount of heart and guts that season. And what an important season it was! In that World Series-winning effort, Brasier saw 33 innings of action and pitched to a 1.60 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP. He was one of the team’s most dependable options down the stretch, allowing just one run in 8.2 innings of work in that fateful postseason. It’s honestly hard to believe that Brasier was ever that good for the team, and so signing him to a deal close to the veteran minimum ($577,500) was a no-brainer.
But before long, Brasier was looking Brasier-like. In 2019, he give up 9 home runs and his ERA tripled to 4.85. That was the highest total in both categories until… hey, this year! This year saw him end with just a 56.2% left on base percentage, a 20 percent decrease from any season he’s ever pitched. Also not good!
I would be remiss in stating that Brasier had a tough 2021. This was a year that saw him break his pinky right before the start of the season, and lose his father during the rehablitation, which is an unfortunate proccess of events I can’t imagine. In June, he took a line drive to the face and had neck surgery, and then he had a pretty decent last month of the season back in Boston that resulted in a 1.50 ERA in 13 appearances. He even beat out certain more dependable names to a postseason roster spot. However, Boston is a city of “what have you done for me lately?” and lately, it’s become commonplace to see him blow games.
It seemed as though every time a game appeared winnable, even if the lead seemed insurmountable — like, four runs in two innings — Cora motioned for Brasier in the sixth, and by the time Brasier was trotting off the field, the skies had blackened and the scoreboard read very differently. One was left to wonder what he held over Alex Cora. Did he see him or Chaim Bloom drawing fake mustaches on the members of the Henry family and uploading those pictures to Wikipedia?
He had two… uhh… I guess respectable stretches in early September and early August that blanketed perhaps the worst stretch I’ve seen a Red Sox pitcher bring upon himself in quite some time. This included Brasier coming into a 9-4 lead and, without recording an out, reducing it to a 9-8 nailbiter with just 12 pitches. He got booed out of Fenway on his 35th birthday, and rightfully so. This was the second time in a week he had allowed 4 runs in his short outing and got pulled prematurely. This serves as a sample size to the rest of Brasier’s season that ended with a 5.78 ERA, hardly a measure of a successful pitcher, or even one that should be occupying a roster spot on a team that, in theory, with its payroll, should be contending. And his 1.30 WHIP felt much, much, much higher.
Best Game or Moment
You would think I’d have to struggle to think of what to pick here for a shortage of outings that made me feel fulfilled. But, I can say more for Brasier than I can for some members of this 2022 bullpen, which says a lot, and says nothing good. There is a clear cut moment that left me astonished and immediately regretful of the abundance of curse words I’d been yelling at my television — and Alex Cora — moments earlier.
August 14, when the hopes of the season were most definitely beginning to fly out the window, Brasier came in against the Yankees to follow an extraordinary 7-inning shutout, two-hit appearance by Michael Wacha that was becoming routine for the righty. Though he wasn’t exactly facing the cream of the crop of the Yankees lineup, every Boston fan I know was groaning at the thought of yet another pinstripe victory at the fault of the defense. Brasier was the last person we wanted to see. Behind the hamburglar. If Babe Ruth’s ghost himself came out of the dugout, I’d have been less upset, mostly because ghosts are badass. Brasier needed just 13 pitches to retire Isaiah Kiner-Filefa, Kyle Higashioka, and Tim Locastro, and even on a night where the Yanks couldn’t get much going, it was a relieving appearance from the, well, reliever. It beckoned the question, though, how much longer until we’d be cursing his name again? As fate would have it, Brasier actually struck 3 batters out against Pittsburgh too in his next appearance 3 days later. But don’t worry, he turned into a pumpkin and could not finish the 5th inning he was called upon on August 19, allowing 5 runs while recording two outs. He’d finish that month with a 9.75 ERA… ahh, that’s more like it.
The Big Question
For me, this is a loaded question. It’s not if but when. What is going to be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back and allows Chaim, Cora, and company to see that the game has simply passed Brasier by, or at least, that Boston needs to move on? Is he going to have to smack a teammate upside the head on the diamond with a corked bat? Is he going to have to videotape himself stealing Alex Cora’s car?
As with most questions I ask, I simply don’t know. But, the man wearing the number 70 in the Red Sox official picture gives the type of snide look that suggests indifference to this deficiency. It’s as if he’s begging someone to question why he’s coming in a one-run game, begging for someone not to let him inevitably throw the pitch that will allow the winning run to cross the plate.
2023 and Beyond
I feel like Ryan Brasier could be a swell guy, I really do. But it’s imperative that, with respect to the fact that Brasier did not get non-tendered and is likely spending the 2023 season or the majority of it as Fenway, the “And Beyond” section happens somewhere else, uptick in velocity be damned. With stats that aren’t good and which feel like they’re even worse, and with Chaim Bloom always scouring the waiver wire and picking up pieces, even if they are Bargain Bin pieces, these pieces are likely not going to be 36-years-old or in the bottom third percentile of the league in hard hit percentage. Though, of course, I could be proven wrong. Still, with appreciation of Ryan Brasier’s performance in that pivotal 2018 season, that was now half a decade ago. It’s time to cut our losses with someone who’s been a liability in our bullpen, before that liability cuts those losses out of our 2023 schedule himself.