Baltimore Orioles vs Detroit Tigers: Five players to watch

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman /
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Brad Brach, RHP

No one on the 2018 Baltimore Orioles has saved more games than Brad Brach — but at this rate, he may not be a part of the closer-by-committee for much longer.

Brach has thrown a shade under 10 innings this year, so it should go without saying that we’re dealing with a minute sample size. And yet, across the board, his numbers suggest a regression from his 2017 form. He’s walking hitters at the highest rate of his career, and he’s striking them out at his lowest rate since 2014. But the most worrying development of all has been his reduced velocity — his fastball is down by over 2 mph from last year, and his slider and changeup have fallen by nearly that much.

In a recent Baltimore Sun article, Eduardo A. Encina reported that both Brach and Showalter attribute the middling results to a lack of rhythm in the bullpen. The Orioles’ rocky start means they haven’t encountered many high-leverage scenarios late in the game, and when they have, the pressure has been all the greater. According to Brach:

"“The team struggling as a whole can make it difficult on the bullpen because I feel like the years we’ve been good and made the playoffs it was like, ‘OK, we’ve got the lead and we’ve got the seventh, eighth and ninth.’ You kind of feed off each other, and when things go bad, it’s kind of the same thing.”"

So Brach’s numbers, while ugly, haven’t had time to stabilize. Aside from Richard Bleier, the entire bullpen has been struggling. And Buck Showalter has faith in his late-inning arms. Look below the surface, and you’ll see that there’s probably no reason to panic about Brach — but then again, isn’t that a pretty good reason to look out for a bounceback performance against Detroit?

The Orioles have circled the end of May for Zach Britton’s return from Achilles surgery. For Baltimore’s bullpen, reinforcements are on the way, but if he doesn’t get his act together soon, Brach could be on the clock already.