Padres Editorial: Brandon Maurer is Blossoming

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: USA Today Sports
Credit: USA Today Sports

Brandon Maurer‘s short career as a Padre has been anything but normal. Traded to the Padres in late 2014 for #FinalPiece Seth Smith, Maurer dazzled at times in 2015 before he was sidelined by shoulder inflammation in August. His fastball and wipeout “power slider” led to a 3.00 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and a low walk rate. These numbers, prior to injury, made him a tangible part in the Padres Maurer-Benoit-Kimbrel trio which was a highlight of an otherwise disappointing and disastrous 2015 season.

Following multiple trades and basically a new coaching staff, the Padres decided to give Maurer a chance to start during spring training in 2016. Maurer, who had originally come up as a starting pitcher in the Mariners minor league system, had expressed a desire to attempt a comeback for a starting job. He put in the work in the offseason in attempt to become a starting pitcher, as he added 15 pounds of muscle and developed a fourth pitch to his arsenal, a curveball. He also tinkered with his delivery and arm angle, too.

Brandon Maurer came into the Spring Training exhibition games with hopes he would perform well enough to land a starting gig. The results…. were not good. In his first outing, Maurer gave up 5 runs in 1 1/3 innings. The next outing, he only gave up a run in three innings of work. His last spring training start was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He gave up ten runs on nine hits in 1.0 IP of work. Although he reportedly had the flu, his fastball velocity was down to 89-91 MPH. That drop in velocity was alarming, and after that outing, manager Andy Green decided it was time to place Maurer back in the bullpen, less than two weeks before Opening Day.

Maurer had to transformed himself back into being a reliever. He had to scratch four months of work and head back into the bullpen. He was somewhat reluctant and surprised by the decision, but agreed with it: “(I’ll) go out there, one inning, and kind just put it all on the line,” Maurer said. “I think it’ll help. I know that I can hit my spots, letting it rip, too, which I think is something special. I’m looking forward to it.”

In those two weeks prior to Opening Day, Brandon Maurer decided to rid of his curveball and go back to his 2015 form. He basically had less than two weeks to prepare for being a reliever again, not nearly a long enough time for him to regain form.

This attempt to start games was probably the sole reason that Maurer really struggled to open up the 2016 season. In the first two months, he registered an ERA of nearly 7 (6.97), had a HR/FB% of 15.8%, gave up 32 hits in 31 IP, and had an inflated walk rate. Quite frankly, the first two months of the season were pretty much his spring training. Maurer went from May 18 to June 11 without a 1-2-3 inning- until a game vs Colorado in which he “re-discovered” the proper arm angle for his famed power-slider. In that outing, he struck out the side in dominant fashion.

Since that outing, #MaurerPower has returned.

Credit: AP Photo
Credit: AP Photo

From June 15th on, Brandon Maurer has been absolutely dynamite. He has an ERA of 0.45 and a FIP of only 1.38. He has a BB% of 0.95 and has registered nearly a strikeout an inning (19 K in 20 IP).

He hasn’t given up a HR in nearly two months; since June 5, when Carlos Gonzalez took him deep.

In April, he gave up a Hard% (measuring hard contact rate) of 43.3%. In July, he only gave up a Hard% of 23.3%.

In July, opponents hit only .122/.143/.171 against him.

The slider velocity is rising for him, too. Last season, Maurer’s slider registered an average velocity of 88 MPH. It is very telling that his average velocity on his “power slider” is still down 3 MPH from last year, even with his last 20 outings. A pitch that once sat in the low-80s earlier in the season, is slowly rising to an average velocity of 85 MPH. I would expect that number to slowly continue to ascend in the last two months of 2016.

It is pretty safe to say, after a rough spring training and start to the season where he had to invent and reinvent himself constantly, that the Brandon Maurer that the Padres envisioned is here.

So what’s next?

Well, with the Fernando Rodney trade, Brandon Maurer will be the Padres closer for the rest of 2016, something he was really pumped up about. He has been fantastic in his short time there, and if he keeps up his current form, he should continue to perform well in that role.

After 2016, who knows? Maurer is under club control, but 2017 is going to be a very rough year with not a lot of wins on the big league club, so in reality, there is no reason to hold onto Brandon Maurer if a real good offer comes AJ Preller’s way. If a viable offer does not come, Preller can always wait until the 2017 trade deadline to deal him. As we saw with the Craig Kimbrel deal and during this year’s deadline, really good closers can fetch great talent.

But that day is a ways off.

As for now, let’s enjoy Brandon Maurer.

#MaurerPower is back.

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