I've been waiting to write about Brandon Maurer, given the volatile nature of reliever statistics. While Maurer has looked nothing short of incredible since being converted to a full-time reliever, there's still a certain window of time that has to pass before conclusions can be made about some of his peripherals. At 18 innings, we probably haven't reached that ideal window, but it's all we've got. I've seen enough.
Brandon Maurer is awesome.
More accurately, he has been awesome. Through 18 innings, Maurer has a 0.50 ERA, 1.36 FIP, and 2.48 xFIP. His SIERA, using batted ball results, is a mere 2.01. He's only walking 2 batters per nine innings, and he's striking out 11 batters per nine innings. He's yet to give up a homer, and even when runners have gotten on base, he's stranded them at an insane 92.9%. Maybe that last part won't last (ok, probably) but it won't affect those peripherals. Of relievers, only Jake McGee and Aroldis Chapman have a better FIP than Maurer's, using a minimum of 15 innings thrown this year. Simply put, in his short career as a reliever, Maurer has been one of the game's very best.
The results have been fantastic, but the simplified arsenal has been jaw dropping. We always knew Maurer could throw hard given the right situation, but Maurer is consistently ripping his four-seamer as hard (96.8 mph) among the best of them, but the real pitch of note is just how hard Maurer has come out throwing his slider.
There's some debate over classifications of pitches between different resources, but Brooks Baseball has it right -- Maurer throws a slider, and he throws it hard. Really, really hard. Here's a 2014 slider velocity leaderboard.
|Pitcher||Team||R/L||Pitches thrown||Average velocity|
Source: Baseball Prospectus Pitch F/X leaderboards
Only Bryan Morris throws his slider harder, and in fact, you can take the average career slider velocity of any pitcher over the last eight seasons and Maurer still ranks 4th.
Since becoming a reliever, Maurer has simplified things a lot. The sinker is essentially gone, and so is his curveball, save for a few scattered appearances. Many people wondered about Maurer's mental ability to stick in the majors, especially given his propensity for melting down once a game when a few runners got on base. Maurer simply couldn't bounce back when things went south. Whatever he's doing now, throwing as hard as he can, is working remarkably well. Maurer has all the makings of a dominant reliever in this league, and while his previous struggles with the mental aspect of the game cause some pause before crowning him a future closer, everything outside of the head looks among the game's most elite.
Maybe like Maurer has, it's best not to over-think it. It's likely he'll undergo an eventual adjustment period, and at some point he'll have a meltdown on the mound. But a month and a half in, there's been nothing of the sort. He might just be this good. Regardless, I'm currently having as much fun watching him throw as he is wiping guys out with blazing sliders. If this is what he is now, the Mariners have made Brandon Maurer a fairly valuable asset.
(Thanks Colin for the GIF)