We sound like a broken record, when we mention the bullpen woes for the Houston Astros. With help on the way and possible trade options on the block, there are easy solutions to fix this incomplete part of a contender, but fans shouldn’t be as hard on Brooks Raley.
The left-hander was traded for in 2020, and while being a journeyman through South Korea and the minor leagues, he has taken some heat based on his ERA. The eye test has also come into play when evaluating Raley, but for a reliever of his caliber, there is much more than just his ERA.
While fans show distaste in Raley, look beyond his ERA and you have a decent reliever.
The lefty specialist has become a dying position out of the bullpen with the new inning requirements from relief pitchers. This was Raley’s way to keep his career alive, while he is coming into jams and probably not returning even after one out. Over 34 games, the left-hander has worked through 28.2 innings, showing that he is coming into innings with runners on along with outs already recorded.
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The lack of multiple high-leverage arms is evident, but Raley has been a guy that is looked to in these situations. Fans expect more, which is anticipated from a contender, but he is not Joe Smith. Raley has a respectable Baseball Savant in the eyes of advanced metrics. The left-hander is in the 99th percentile for exit velocity and hard hit percentage, which is the best in the game of baseball. The fact is that he is just an unlucky pitcher like Kyle Tucker is an unlucky hitter.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a newer statistic that only factors in outcomes that pitchers can’t control with their defense (strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs). It can be seen as flawed, but it helps show the unluckiness for a pitcher that loses to soft contact like Raley. At a 2.45 FIP, this helps show the huge difference with the runs he gives up with his 5.97 ERA.
Raley is also striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings, along with a 1.395 WHIP. These two are around the average for major-league relievers, so he isn’t the biggest issue out of the bullpen. His whiff percentage, chase rate, barrel percentage, walk percentage among others are above the league average. There is always more to the ERA for a relievers, and Raley is a victim of it.