On December 7th, the New York Mets acquired left-handed reliever Brooks Raley from Tampa for pitching prospect Keyshawn Askew. Since then other major news has eclipsed this excellent move from the Mets front office.
The bullpen has undoubtedly been the area that has improved the most on the team, where Raley will play a very important role in 2023. Rising Apple's John Flynn has analyzed Raley's potential and the statistics that show why he was a good hire. Now the question arises of what would be the exact role of this player in the team and what would be the best way to use it.
Raley shouldn't be considered just a left-handed specialist.
Since his arrival to the big leagues from Korea in 2020, Raley has put up good numbers but it wasn't until last year that he displayed his best stuff in the majors. In 2022 with the Rays, the 34-year-old pitcher posted his best numbers in ERA, WHIP and AVG.
Many consider Raley the bullpen replacement for Joely Rodriguez, who served mostly as a left-handed specialist in middle relief last year. However, using Raley solely in that role would limit his contribution. Although left-handers barely hit him for an average of .171, there are a few factors to analyze that lead us to consider him for other roles and situations.
First, he had his best ERA the year he pitched the most innings in the majors with 52.3 in 2022. Considering that he was a starter in Korea, Raley could be also a multi-inning pitcher as a bridge between starting pitching and the bullpen.
The second important aspect is the spin rate of his Slider. He is not categorized as a flamethrower pitcher and at 34 years old no major increases in velocity are expected. However, there has been an increase in the spin movement of his slider, which improved from a spin of 2539 in 2021 to 2940 in 2022. But why is this important?
Raley relies on his slider for 32.8% of his pitches, which he uses almost equally against lefties and righties, generating a Whiff% (swinging strikes per swing) of 35.0 and allowing just 30.4% HardHit%. This is a very important indicator since a pitch like the slider with enough movement generates a considerable amount of swing and miss for both lefties and righties.
Third and last, his changeup, which he uses 20% of the time he throws exclusively against rights, considerably limits contact, allowing just an AVG and SLG of .128, with an impressive HardHit% allowed of 14.3.
Taking all of the above into account, it could be said that while using Raley against lefties will generate a positive impact on the team, using him on occasions as a pitcher to face multiple hitters or innings can increase his contribution to the bullpen, generating positive results and allowing flexibility to the team to operate on a day-to-day basis. If something is clear, it is that the acquisition of this player can be a determining factor for the Mets in 2023.