Relief Pitcher Bryan Baker
Baker made the opening day roster and has been a steady part of a much improved O’s bullpen all season. However, he has been inconsistent all season and has not pitched well in some high-leverage situations which means he has seen less usage with the emergence of pieces such as Felix Bautista and Dillon Tate. Baker has pitched in 52 games this season with a 4.22 ERA and 96 ERA+. This has made him a slightly below-average pitcher this season.
He has run into hard luck, reflected in a .340 BABIP and a 2.80 FIP. He has allowed only two home runs in 53 innings so he has an impressive ability to keep the ball in the yard which is valuable for a relief pitcher. The main issues with Baker have been his pitching in clutch scenarios. In high-leverage situations, he has given up an opposing OPS of 1.026 in 55 plate appearances. Both of the home runs he has given up have been in high-leverage situations and he has given up a BABIP of .516 in these situations. In low-leverage situations, the opposing OPS has dropped to .473 and BABIP to .261.
Notably, Bryan has made two starts this season as an opener. He pitched well in his first start against the Cardinals on May 12 with 2.1 shutout innings and three strikeouts but his second start against the Mariners did not go nearly as well with three earned runs given up in 1.1 innings in an eventual 10-0 loss.
The most appealing aspect of Baker’s game is the spin rate on his fastball which allows him to avoid hard contact and the home run ball. His three-pitch mix includes two fastballs (a four-seam and cutter) and a changeup. His fastball spin rate ranks in the 80th percentile and his average four-seamer sits at 96 miles per hour. He does not rely on deceptiveness as his opponent’s chase rate ranks in the 4th percentile but he does rely on not allowing hard contact as he has not allowed many barrels or other hard contact.
Unfortunately, if Baker cannot pitch in high-leverage situations then his future as a reliever looks fairly bleak. There is plenty to like out of him but if he continues to get shelled in situations where the O’s need a shutdown reliever, then his status for next year is questionable.