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Brooks Raley has Become a Weapon

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Is it better pitching, better luck, or a little of both?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Is Brooks Raley an over-achiever or an under-achiever?

He made a comeback last year with the Astros during the weird 2020 season. He hadn’t pitched in MLB since 2014, with a stint in the Korean League during that time, and his career was distinctly mediocre before then. His career ERA is 5.63. including his last two seasons with the Astros.

So his two seasons with the Astros, with ERAs of 4.95 and 4.73 respectively, represent a kind of over-achieving.

But wait!

If you look at advanced stats Raley has been an under-achiever his whole career, including his career with the Astros. With a career 5.63 ERA, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA are all considerably better, 4.43, 3.77, and 3.57 respectively.

As an Astro, Raley’s tendency to under-achieve his advanced stats is even more pronounced. His 4.80 ERA with the Astros is in contrast with a 3.40 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, and 2.98 SIERA.

Has Brooks Raley been unlucky HIS WHOLE CAREER?

Well, his whole career is only 104 innings, so it’s possible.

And if so, maybe his luck is turning, and at just the right time. Since July 28, Raley has pitched 15.1 innings, allowing only two earned runs, a 1.17 ERA. In eight appearances since September 5th, Raley has not allowed a single run.

Now, his ERA since July 28th (1.17) is over-achieving his peripherals: FIP, 2.64, xFIP, 2.48, SIERA, 2.37.

Although the peripheral data above is better than career averages, looking at the Fangraphs contact data and batted ball profile there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between Raley’s early 2021 performance and his more recent performance.

And yet, before July 28th, Raley had a 6.58 ERA, with a 3.42 FIP and 3.23 xFIP. So since July 29th Raley’s peripherals have dropped about a run, but his ERA has dropped 5+ runs.

Raley’s BAPIP in the early season was .363, since July 28th it’s .228.

So, to a large extent, Raley is pitching into some better luck. But there’s also some genuine improvement. Let’s look at some before and after stats.

Before July 28................................................After July 28

K%...29.4........................................................32.7

BB%..7.4..........................................................7.3

AVG..266.........................................................160

EV... 83.7.........................................................80.6

So heading into the playoffs Brooks Raley is pitching the best ball of his career. But probably even more so, after a career of under-achieving, it looks like Raley’s luck, at long last, is finally turning.

Remember when Kyle Tucker’s batting average for April was .185, but his xBA was near the top of the league?

No one expects Brooks Raley to sustain his recent 1.17 ERA forever.

But considering his bad luck career, would another five or six weeks be too much to ask?