Although the Houston Astros went out and picked up a few experienced arms this past offseason, there are still a few speed bumps that the team has to get over it. While the bullpen has been a letdown early in the season, Brooks Raley is throwing well below his potential and for a guy who has played overseas, this isn’t the best thing to see through seven appearances.
While being a journeyman to say the least, the left-hander played two seasons with the Chicago Cubs from 2012-2013, before spending extended time in the KBO. As Raley is on the last year of his deal with the Astros, he has a lot to prove to stay with the team until the end of the year and possibly in MLB in the near future.
While velocity isn’t the issue, Raley is getting shelled early in the season.
As the only left-hander currently in the bullpen, Raley has seen the most time as a lefty specialist, although this title is pretty much dead in baseball. Matchups between right-handers and left-handers still matters today, but with a maximum of three batters faced required in an inning, Raley hasn’t showed much leverage this season.
Through 6.2 innings of work, the left-hander has posted a 10.80 ERA, while giving up eight hits, two being home runs. It is worth noting that Raley doesn’t have the best career ERA, as well, and was coming into jams in 2020 that ended up hurting his numbers. While Joe Smith allowed the hit that drove in runs for the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night, Raley’s ERA was penalized for it, as both veterans have dealt with their own struggles thus far.
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While Raley’s velocity is up all on all of his pitches to almost a single MPH, the left-hander doesn’t look to be struggling with drops in speed. Placement and command are the issues behind Raley’s pitches. As he relies on his cutter 49% of the time, Raley isn’t getting the same movement as he did in 2020.
While most of his pitches used to tail away on left-handed batters, more are sitting in hitter’s wheel houses, according to Baseball Savant’s pitching spray sheets. As hitters are barreling Raley’s pitching well, opposing players are one of the highest chances of extra base hit probabilities in baseball.
Hitting the zone and not letting his fastball rise looks to be the early issues for Raley, but as his cutter doesn’t look that different from 2020, hitters are knowing when to tee off on it. Raley will need to make adjustments to pitchers and possibly start using his slider at a higher rate like he did the previous season.