Remembering Brad Brach

Doug Pensinger

Today the Padres traded Brad Brach to the Orioles for minor league righty Devin Jones, ending his Padres career. Before he goes, let's take a moment to appreciate the long shots in life.

Guys drafted in the 42nd round usually have their work cut out for them if they want to make the major leagues.  There is no MLB fast track program.  Scouts aren't often willing to look past their flaws in the name of flashy tools and nascent potential.  Most guys toil in relative obscurity for years before coming to the harsh realization that baseball is over and it's time to move on.  Maybe years from now at the real estate office they tell the story about how they struck out Mike Trout in AA or that time that Roy Halladay bought dinner for the team after making a rehab start.  For most guys that's where it ends - unforgettable baseball memories mixed in with a sea of long bus rides and nights watching kids tackle Henry the Puffy Taco.  Most guys never make it, but some guys do.

When the Padres picked Brad Brach out of Monmouth University they knew they were getting a big and strong Jersey kid with a live arm and a tough makeup.  He threw the ball hard and he attacked hitters, but he never got to the point where he could just blow hitters away with his stuff.  He wasn't on the big board for a lot of teams coming out of college, but the Padres gave him a shot and inked him with a $1000 signing bonus.  He responded by taking the rock and striking guys out wherever he went, registering a minor league punch rate of 10.44 k/9.  Brach pitched in high-leverage situations often and seemed to thrive on the pressure, totaling 119 minor league saves.

He made his MLB debut in August of 2011 and impressed by striking out the side in the 8th inning, establishing his career-long dominance over the hated Dodgers - a team Brach held to a .193 batting average over 16 appearances.  He became somewhat of a mainstay in the 2012 bullpen, but was riding the shuttle back and forth to Tucson throughout 2013.  Despite the difficult season where he posted a negative WAR value, the Monmouth product turned in a solid 3.19 ERA for the Padres in 2013.

Brach is a unique pitcher in that he makes his living challenging hitters and attacking them up in the zone, even without the luxury of premium velocity or movement.  Pitchers who work up in the zone will always have to deal with the threat of the home run ball and Brach is no different, giving up a ton of fly balls and a 12% HR/FB ratio.  As a strikeout pitcher, Brach also gets in a lot of deep counts and has had some trouble limiting the free passes in the big leagues.  Nevertheless, his deceptive and unorthodox delivery seems to serve this aggressive approach.  His bulldog mentality and aggressive style of play are exactly what you would expect from a guy who never had things the easy way.  Some guys claw, and scratch, and hang around.  Most guys don't make it, but some guys do.

Brad was a very easy Padre to root for.  Best of luck to him in Baltimore.

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