We’ve seen enough of Boston Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier
Patience is running thin with a Boston Red Sox bullpen that seldom inspires confidence when attempting to hold a lead.
Red Sox relievers own a collective 4.58 ERA that ranks as the fourth-worst in the majors and they’ve been charged with 83 meltdowns, the second-most, according to FanGraphs. While there are a few reliable arms at the back end of Boston’s bullpen, bridging the gap between the rotation and the dwindling crew of relievers who still reside in their circle of trust has been a problem all season.
Boston’s bullpen began their makeover this week by designating Austin Davis and Hirokazu Sawamura for assignment and replacing them with Kaleb Ort and Zack Kelly from Triple-A Worcester. The Red Sox identified a pair of struggling relievers who weren’t going to factor into their future, so they parted ways in order to get a look at some younger arms who could compete for a spot in next year’s bullpen. It’s the right direction to take for a team spiraling out of the playoff hunt, and they shouldn’t stop there.
Ryan Brasier needs to be the next reliever on the chopping block.
Kutter Crawford was on his way to a decent outing in Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins when he recorded the first out of the fifth inning, but the game quickly unraveled. Alex Verdugo dropped a routine fly ball to right field and Crawford walked the next batter, leading to an early hook with Boston clinging to a one-run lead. You could feel the game slipping away as Brasier trotted out from the bullpen.
Sure enough, the lead was gone in the blink of an eye. Brasier drilled a batter with the first pitch he threw to load the bases. He managed to get ahead in the count when Nick Gordon fouled off three consecutive pitches, but Brasier couldn’t put him away. His next pitch caught too much of the plate and Gordon crushed it 416 feet to right field for a backbreaking grand slam, the first of his career.
Only two of the runs were charged to Brasier and Crawford was tagged with the loss. Verdugo’s inexplicable error certainly didn’t help. There’s plenty of blame to spread around, but the primary takeaway is that there wasn’t a single Sox fan watching this game who expected Brasier to escape that jam.
Brasier has now allowed multiple runs in three of his last six appearances. He’s been charged with 11 earned runs in those six games in which he’s logged only 4 1/3 innings. Brasier hasn’t had a clean inning since striking out the side against the fellow cellar-dweller Pittsburgh Pirates two weeks ago. His ERA has ballooned to 6.62 and he owns a brutal 9.75 ERA in August.
Fastball velocity hasn’t been a problem. Baseball Savant has Brasier averaging 95.7 mph with his four-seam fastball this season and he topped 97 mph against the Twins. He’s still capable of missing bats with a 23.1 K% and he generally limits free passes with a solid 5.0 BB% this season. The issue is that when opposing hitters do make contact with his fastball, the pitch is getting hammered.
Brasier’s 90.9 average exit velocity places him in the bottom-four percent of the league and he’s in the bottom-three percent with a 46.8 Hard Hit percentage. Opponents are hitting .348 against his fastball and a blistering .515 against his sinking fastball.
His slider has been his only effective pitch, limiting opponents to a .175 average while generating a 32.4 Whiff percentage. The slider has always been his best option to put hitters away but opponents will lay off the pitch to eagerly sit on the fastball. If he’s unable to blow the heater by them, big league hitters are going to crush him.
Alex Cora has always had a curious amount of faith in Brasier. It almost makes you wonder if the right-hander is hiding a stash of evidence to blackmail the manager. Aside from the obvious lack of options at his disposal, why else would he continue to trust Brasier is tight spots?
Brasier has been a reliable option for brief stretches of his career, most notably when he joined the club for their World Series run in 2018. That’s where Cora’s confidence in Brasier primarily stems from. But it’s become clear that the 35-year-old is no longer as reliable. He’s arbitration-eligible for a third time next season but at this point, he isn’t worth the roster spot, let alone a bump in salary.
It’s time to banish Brasier to the waiver pool where he can float away like Davis, whom the Twins claimed on Wednesday. The Sox are using the stretch run to get a look at some potential options for next year’s roster. Call up Frank German or Eduard Bazardo. Brasier has already proven he isn’t a long-term solution, so let’s see what the prospects can do.
The Red Sox will add pitching when rosters expand in September but they can’t use that as an excuse to hang on to Brasier. It might be too tempting for Cora to lean on the familiarity of a pitcher who once thrived under his watch, but it’s time to look toward the future, and a better team is one that has no room for Brasier on the roster.