Pitchers and catchers and everyone else have reported to Spring Training. The season is drawing nearer all the time (not hyperbole, this is really happening). Arizona’s roster will start to take shape over the next couple of weeks as games start, someone (or two) gets hurt, etc. The team doesn’t appear to be all that close to putting a roster down in ink just yet, and they shouldn’t. There’s a tiny bit of time left to tinker, to experiment, to observe before guys getting assigned to minor league camps become woefully unhappy but put on a team-first smiley face anyways.
One guy that this might end us describing is Silvino Bracho. With Brad Ziegler, Daniel Hudson, Tyler Clippard, Andrew Chafin, Josh Collmenter and Randall Delgado basically all having guaranteed spots in the bullpen, mostly due to the fact that they’re pretty good, there’s really only one spot remaining. Evan Marshall wants it. Jake Barrett would like to stake his claim. It could, theoretically, go to Archie Bradley. Enrique Burgos would like to get back to the majors. Matt Reynolds could add a second lefty option, then there are a whole bunch of non-roster invitees to throw into the mix. You get it, space is at a premium here.
Yet Bracho might just have the strongest case to make as far as picking up right where he left off – back in the major league bullpen. At 5’10” and 190-pounds on the roster, Bracho looks a lot more like he’s 5’9″ and 170-pounds in real life (this might even be generous). For all that he’s not when he steps onto the scale, he makes up for it when he steps onto the mound. Bracho has a little #rig – you could see it in his body language when he took the mound. There aren’t a lot of sub-six foot pitchers in baseball. There are even fewer that are right-handed. There are even fewer of them that aren’t scared to throw their fastball in any count, especially up and in to righties. One has to wonder: how does Silvino Bracho get away with it?
In his debut, Bracho generated two kinds of outcomes regularly – fly balls and strikeouts. He threw a four-seam fastball almost 71% of the time so it’s not like hitters didn’t know what was coming. The pitch averaged “only” 92.5mph, which is far from big time heat as far as modern day relievers are concerned. Yet, he was wildly effective in 13 Major League games, basically all of his minor league games from Visalia to Mobile, and the projections seem to like him a lot.
Look no further than the aforementioned fastball. A quick check of the pitch reveals that it has plus vertical movement. This is due to a spin rate that, at times, approached and exceeded 2500 revolutions per minute (rpm) which is pushing towards the outer boundaries of fastball spin rates. Tyler Clippard, for reference, averaged a bit more spin and vertical movement, but this resulted in a slightly slower pitch (yes, more spin means slower velocity). And while Clippard has long been known for strikeouts and fly balls, Bracho is in a pretty similar mold – at least in so far as the numbers are concerned. Watch the two pitch and they’re, well, pretty damn dissimilar.
Bracho has an extreme drop-and-drive delivery, giving up height he doesn’t even have in the process. There’s no plane to speak of and there never will be. But, the ball comes out low and appears to “rise” upwards a bit. I mean, how else to explain routine pop ups on pitches in this location? His motion is funky, too, so there are a lot of parts at play here.
Now contrast this with Clippard, who, for all of the strightforwardness of his delivery, does hide the ball a little bit. Again, notice the pitch as it “rides up” or “jumps” more than we’d commonly expect it to. Also, this is what effective pitch framing looks like. Travis d’Arnaud pull the pitch into the zone but does it so smoothly and quickly that he gets the call. Plus, maybe the ump doesn’t like Jayson Werth.
Anyways, there’s a lot to like about Silvino Bracho. Relievers with weird batted ball profiles can actually do pretty well and if he can keep the extreme fly ball thing up, plus get the strikeouts, he could be damn fine pitcher. Then again, these are young relievers we’re talking about here, so don’t get too comfortable just yet. If Bracho does cement himself, however, it will be on the back of that rising four-seam fastball. He’s a unique pitcher with a unique pitch and he knows how to use it. He’ll need every revolution available to hold off the competition this spring.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
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Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).