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Seriously, John Brebbia Should Close

The high-leverage case for Brebbia just keeps getting stronger.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I’d like to start this article with an apology, or potentially just an explanation, since I’m not really all that sorry. I generally enjoy searching for a new and interesting thread to pull on for my articles. This week, however, work and travel left me a little behind the eight-ball. Instead, please accept some further evidence that John Brebbia is great at pitching.

I opined last week that Brebbia should feature in the Cardinals’ late-inning plans. I specifically think he should close, but my general view is just that he should pitch high-leverage innings. Since I submitted that article, Brebbia has appeared in four games. That’s good- Mike Shildt seems to be making a concerted effort to pitch Brebbia. The leverage still leaves something to be desired, but it’s heading the right way. Here’s a quick rundown of the situations where he has entered. He entered the first game up five runs in the ninth inning. That’s probably a waste of a good pitcher. The second and third games were better- up one run in the bottom of the sixth and tied in the top of the eighth. While not actually save situations, these are spots where you want your best reliever. The most recent outing was disappointing again- up five runs in the eighth. Fangraphs keeps track of a stat called leverage index. It’s a measure of how important a given plate appearance is. The higher the leverage index, the more important the situation is, and an average plate appearance has a leverage index of one. In the past week, Brebbia has entered the game with an average leverage index of .97- essentially average innings. This doesn’t sound like much, but consider that his season LI is only .61. Shildt seems to be tilting Brebbia’s innings towards more important situations, which is exactly what you’d like to see as he continues to impress.

So, Brebbia has appeared in four games in the last week. They’re okay places to appear. That much is good. How did he fare? I’m not going to mince words- he’s been great. His ERA in those four games? A tidy 0.00. That’s cheating, though. Relievers have four-game stretches with 0 ERA’s all the time. A disciplined analyst looks at FIP, which ignores balls in play and so is more stable. His FIP over these four games is- wait, it’s NEGATIVE .6? Indeed, Brebbia’s FIP over the last four games is negative. Even if you use xFIP, which assumes a league-average rate of home runs on fly balls, that only bumps it up to 0.65. Brebbia has been vertably unhittable this week.

You don’t arrive at a negative FIP by accident. FIP only looks at walks, strikeuts, and home runs. We already know he gave up zero home runs, what with the 0.00 ERA and all. That just leaves walks and strikeouts. Of the fifteen batters Brebbia has seen in the last week, he’s walked one. That’s neither good nor bad- it’s right around a 7% walk rate, nothing worth talking about really. That just leaves strikeouts, and the strikeouts have not been a rare occurrence. Of the 15 batters he’s faced, Brebbia has struck out nine. That’s good for a strikeout rate of why-are-you-even-expressing-this-in-a-rate-it’s-too-good, or 60%.

It’s hard to comprehend what striking out 60% of the batters you face looks like. The number is so high that it doesn’t really track in my head. I’m not sure there’s a good way to solve that- it’s just too many strikeouts. Max Scherzer struck out 60% of the batters he faced in the game where he recorded 20 strikeouts. That’s probably the best way I’ve found to conceptualize it. Conceptualizing is overrated, though. Conceptualizing is for people who can’t make gifs. Instead, here are nine John Brebbia strikeouts from the last week. I’ve added some descriptions below them, just for value.

This one is more like Johan Camar-nooooo.

An assist to Yadi on this gorgeous frame.

Laser beam sound.

Making this gif, I got distracted for a while by the advertisement for ‘Global Poker.’ What a bland name for a company. It’s the Charlie Culberson of company names.

Striking out Ronald Acuna doesn’t count for double, but given the way he’s hitting this year it should.

If a strikeout of Acuna counts double, it’s only fair that a strikeout of Chris Shaw counts for half.

(checks notes) Aramis Garcia? Yep, Aramis Garcia.

This strikeout was absolutely gorgeous. No righty is getting to that pitch, but I could have sworn it was going to be a strike out of his hands.

Brebbia in a righty-on-righty matchup in shadow is borderline unfair. This one ended exactly how you think.

Six fastballs and three sliders. Seven swinging strikeouts, and potentially eight if you think Acuna went around. Brebbia’s arsenal is every bit the four-seam fastball and wipeout slider package you’d want in a reliever, and he showed it all off in these nine at-bats. There’s one new wrinkle of his game worth highlighting in his strikeout of Longoria, though. Let’s take a look at the pitch locations from that four-pitch strikeout. Here’s the first pitch, a fastball outside for a ball:

With Longoria looking down there, Brebbia changes speeds with a painted slider for strike one:

Seeking to further move Longoria outside, Brebbia comes back with yet another low and away pitch, this one a fastball on the black that Longoria fouls off:

Finally ahead in the count, Brebbia chooses to pick on the same spot yet again. With Longoria looking for a fastball away, Brebbia pulls the string with a slider that starts on the outside part of the plate before breaking halfway to Oakland:

This is a new style of pitching that I absolutely love from Brebbia. It’s executed precisely in this instance, and the sequence leads to Longoria swinging at a pitch he’ll never hit in a million years. It also gives hitters something else to think about. It’s one thing to sit high fastball and try to keep your eyes off the slider; it’s another when Brebbia is spotting fastballs where he wants and keeping you guessing. Do your impression of how Longoria must feel, unnamed Cardinals coach in the left side of this frame:

Yeah, agreed.

So, short one today. John Brebbia is good. He strikes guys out. Start getting used to him and his beard in high leverage spots, because he’s showing no signs of slowing down.