The New York Mets made a move on Wednesday to bolster their bullpen, as they acquired left-handed relief pitcher Brooks Raley from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed reliever prospect Keyshawn Askew.
The Mets have made a point over the past couple of offseasons to make a head-on approach on analytics, and the Mets saw something with Raley that they found appealing, but there was one stat above everything else that proves the Mets made the right call adding a multi-faceted and talented reliever to what was a thin bullpen.
Since 2020, newly acquired Mets pitcher Brooks Raley has posted an outstanding 4.14 strikeout to walk ratio, well above the league average of 2.68.
Since returning to the major leagues after five seasons in Japan, Raley has thrown lots of strikes and hasn't walked many, and that has played a big role in his success, especially last season when his ERA dropped from 4.78 in 2021 to 2.68 in 2022 when he cut his home runs allowed in half.
In fact, in each of his three seasons in the majors, he had a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 4.0, so the Mets were looking for consistency and dependability in big spots. That was something the Mets could have used at the trade deadline and from Joely Rodriguez, now with the Red Sox. Rodriguez issued 4.6 walks per nine frames as a Met last year while Raley allowed 2.5, so this is part of the proof he is an upgrade.
Brooks Raley posted a .155 batting average against lefties last season.
Raley was tremendous last season when facing lefty hitters. In addition to his sparkling batting average against, he had a 25-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio and a .200 on-base percentage against.
Raley adds a different dimension to what is a patchwork experiment in the Mets bullpen, as the Mets have seeked to replace several notable relievers from their 2022 bullpen up for free agency. And make no mistake, the Mets' bullpen next year will look completely different than what it was last year.
Before Wednesday, the Mets had just three left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster in David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, and Tayler Saucedo; two of them were not projected to make the 40-man roster. Now they have five with Raley and Jose Quintana, whom the Mets added in free agency on Wednesday.
Brooks Raley is one of the best pitchers in yielding soft contact in baseball, as his average exit velocity against is 84.5 mph since 2020.
As agonizing as it was to see Joely Rodriguez struggle at times to throw for strikes, one of his strengths was inducing soft contact. Rodriguez posted a personal best average exit velocity of 85.3 mph with the Mets last year. So with Rodriguez gone, the Mets had to replace a strong soft contact pitcher, and that is what Raley brings to the table.
In 2020 and 2021, Raley ranked in the 100th percentile in average velocity and in the 85th percentile in 2022. It helps when his sinker and changeup are both effective pitches to get hitters out on at a remarkable clip. The Mets should be excited for what Raley will bring out of Buck Showalter's bullpen for 2023.