Matt Brash, the 24-year-old pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, was quite nasty out of the bullpen say the least. After being converted to a reliever in 2022, he posted a 2.35 ERA in 30.2 innings while striking out 43 batters.
So, where does Matt Brash go now? Well, I recently came across a Twitter post of him working on a cutter at Driveline Baseball.
Matt Brash was working on a cutter at the reputable Driveline Baseball
If you haven’t seen this post already, there is an extensive Twitter thread by Chris Langin, Director of Pitching, at Driveline Baseball. Most of what I will be addressing in this article is pulled from that Twitter thread so a big kudos to Chris Langin.
It’s actually fascinating because on August 29, 2022, Langin wrote about why Matt Brash would benefit from adding a cutter and sinker. I’m not sure if Brash was already working with Driveline Baseball before which prompted Langin to talk about him on Twitter, or if his analysis led Brash to Driveline.
Either way, the young Mariners pitcher is looking to add another tool to his already potent toolkit. Chris Langin said that given his current struggles with command, it’s unlikely that Matt Brash can maintain an extremely high breaking ball rate without a high walk rate.
So, Langin pointed to increasing his fastball usage to increase his command = lower walk rate. And instead of relying only on his four-seam heater, he suggested adding a cutter or sinker.
Another reason why the Driveline member recommended a sinker for Brash was the types of hits he generated. In 2022, the four-seam fastball led to a 56% ground ball rate so a sinker would further increase that great ground ball rate.
What Chris Langin hopes will happen with the addition of another firm breaking ball for Matt Brash
Langin noted that adding a firm breaking ball like a sinker and cutter should lead to better command compared to Matt Brash’s big breaking balls. The cutter shape would also offer a better option for left-handed hitters to pair alongside his backfoot slider.
But one of the biggest takeaways from the thread was how a cutter could help Matt Brash scale as a starting pitcher. As a starting pitcher in 2022 (20 innings), swings and misses were high, but opponents rarely swung.
The former prospect had the lowest in-zone swing rate among starting pitchers in April and May. A large part of this is a product of the sheer volume of breaking balls he threw last season and his lack of command.
With this, Langin expects a cutter type of pitch would help induce more contact. And I think that would make his other pitches even more volatile as put-away pitches.
What this could mean for the big picture
Matt Brash, who is arguably a part of one of the best Mariners trades in recent times, is probably eyeing that 5th spot in the 2023 rotation for good reason. I can confidently say the 1-4 spots of the rotation are locked in as of now with Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby.
Yes, that is quite the rotation on paper especially if Robbie Ray can get back to his Cy Young ways. In terms of the fifth spot in the rotation, there is speculation that Chris Flexen might be a trade piece while Marco Gonzales is not in the favor of many Seattle Mariners fans.
Matt Brash has the stuff to be an elite pitcher, but the command of his pitches is the only thing that still worries me about starting. Will the addition of a cutter make him control the zone and induce weak contact? Only time will tell.
I am not entirely opposed to keeping Brash in the bullpen for 2023 just to limit his usage as he’s still very young. Marco Gonzales has been a solid arm for several years in a Mariners uniform but is his time up?
I’m not so quick to rule Marco out because he is a career 4.08 ERA pitcher. Again, that isn’t a glamorous number but that’s not bad for a 5th starter, right? Yes, I know 2022 was his worst ERA+ of his career and his ERA has been trending the wrong way.
So with all this being said, it will be exciting to see how Matt Brash’s new cutter progresses this offseason. I don’t expect Brash to perfect his cutter that quickly so I’d love to see him be a part of the 2024 Mariners rotation and keep his electric arm in the bullpen for 2023 for now.