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2014 Rockies season review: Brooks Brown came out of nowhere, was effective

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In his ninth year as a professional pitcher, Brooks Brown broke through to the big league level to give the Rockies some rare good relief innings.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Brown is not a player that I thought I would be writing a 2014 Rockies review about, let alone a review that ranks him 17th among all Rockies players in 2014. After all, entering this year Brown had toiled in the minor leagues for eight full seasons in the Diamondbacks, Tigers, and Pirates organizations  - the last seven of which were at the AA or AAA level - with nary a big league appearance to his name.

The 29 year-old righty began 2014 as a non-roster invitee with the Rockies, then settled into a familiar role as a AAA reliever when he failed to make the Opening Day roster. At altitude in Colorado Springs, something changed with Brown. In his 47 1/3 innings there, Brown suddenly became a pitcher who could generate strikeouts (8.75 K/9, his best mark since low A ball) en route to posting a 4.18 ERA/4.25 FIP in a hitter's paradise. When injuries and ineffectiveness struck Colorado's pitching staff, Brown finally got the call to the Show on July 6th.

What happened

Brown slipped right into the big league bullpen and was immediately more effective than the options he'd replaced. He started out with four scoreless relief outings before allowing four runs in his worst outing of the season, right before the All-Star break. In all though, Brown appeared in 28 games for the Rockies and was scored upon in only five of them over 26 innings pitched. In 12 of his appearances, Brown didn't allow a baserunner. Those modest accomplishments were enough to make Brown Colorado's 3rd most valuable reliever in 2014 (and 7th most valuable pitcher).

By the numbers
Brooks Brown, 2014
IP 26
ERA 2.77
FIP 3.71
K/9 7.3
BB/9 1.7
GB% 58.4
BABIP .230
rWAR 0.6

To achieve that success, Brown relied heavily on his slider and change-up, throwing them 26% and 21% of the time respectively, while also hurling a fastball that averaged 94 MPH. That kind of repertoire makes him a good fit for pitching in Coors Field - and that's where he was used for 19 of his 28 appearances this year. His sample size of 26 innings is really too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from, but I will say that he was effective at home and on the road, against righties and lefties.

2014 Grade: B

In a year in which the majority of the bullpen was terrible, Brown's modest successes look like giant triumphs. Brown made a successful major league debut and for that he should be acknowledged. Taking that success and building upon it next year will be the challenge.

What to expect in 2015

To a large extent, it seems like Brown's initial success will not carry over into 2015. After all, a .230 batting average on balls in play is unsustainably low for all but the best pitchers, while the ERA-FIP gap of almost a run indicates that Brown was fortunate to be as successful as he was this year. Still, a reliever with a 3.71 FIP is a pretty decent asset to have either as a swing man of a big league bullpen or as cheap insurance to stash in AAA should things fall apart again next year.

Brown is currently on the 40 man roster, but he's a player that might be designated for assignment this off-season to make room for prospects or trade acquisitions. If he does make it to Spring Training on the 40 man roster, look for Brown to compete for a permanent spot in Colorado's bullpen next year.