The Mariners 2023 season as a whole was an obvious disappointment. For a team that remained largely intact but added an impact bat in Teoscar Hernandez, expectations were high. Many thought Seattle could contend for a division title, and for a while, they did. The Mariners unraveled come September and ended up missing the playoffs. There were some bright spots this year and one of the more underrated bright spots was the steps forward that Matt Brash took this year.
A bullpen that has been anchored by the Mariners icon, Paul Sewald, has been a strength of the teams pretty much since Dipoto took over. When the Mariners traded Paul Sewald at the trade deadline it raised a lot of questions, rightfully so, by Mariners fans. Sewald's departure forced Matt Brash into even more high leverage situations and there were some struggles in August, shortly after the trade, but outside of a couple of appearances, he was dominant. Let's look at some of the changes Matt Brash made and just how good he was this year.
In 2022 Matt Brash made 39 appearances, throwing 50.2 IP, he had a 11.01 K/9 with 5.86 BB/9. He had a 4.44 ERA that is slightly skewed by the few starts he made at the beginning of the year. He accounted for a .6 WAR while being a pretty important part of the bullpen and gaining some valuable experience late in the year out of the bullpen.
In 2023 Brash made 78 appearances, throwing 70.2 IP, increasing his K/9 by more than 2.5 to a 13.63 K/9 and cutting out over 2 walks per 9 with an impressive 3.69 BB/9. He accounted for a 2.1 WAR, and eclipsed 100 strikeouts out of the bullpen, joining some elite Mariners relievers to do so.
When you dig into the analytics you can really see what changes Matt Brash made and how it has made him more effective. In 2022 he relied on his fastball a lot more as well as a curveball. He threw the fastball 35.9% of the time, the slider 37.8% of the time and the curveball 25.6% of the time. He identified that the slider was the plus-plus pitch here and his pitch usage shows that. In 2023 his fastball decreased slightly to 33.7%, the slider increased dramatically to 50.5% and the curveball was all but eliminated with an 8.7% usage. His slider generated a .206 xWOBA, a 48.5 whiff % and a .162 batting average against.
Overall I give Matt Brash a very solid A-
I think that Matt Brash was the most reliable high-leverage option this year as Andres Munoz struggled and Justin Topa doesn't possess the same type of strikeout stuff as Matt Brash. I gave him an A- because I think that there were some ups and downs, just like with any reliever, that could be cleaned up. He had some blow-up appearances, but they were few and far between. Being tasked with replacing Paul Sewald as a high-leverage option on a playoff-contending, division title-fighting team is no easy task, especially for a 25-year-old. Matt Brash showed his maturity and showed us that he is The Fire Chief who will anchor Los Bomberos for the foreseeable future.