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Quick Look: Aaron Brooks Blanks Red Sox

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Brooks’ Second Stint with Oakland began much like his first. Will it end differently?

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics
Aaron Brooks impressed with his 2019 debut. All we can hope for is more.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It was only 86 pitches in 6 innings of 1 start. No matter which way you spin it Aaron Brooks’ gem last night was among the smallest of sample sizes. It was a gem nonetheless.

Back for another stint with the Oakland A’s, Brooks’ inclusion in the opening week’s starting rotation shocked pretty much everyone, maybe even Brooks himself. However with 6 shutout innings against the reigning world champion Boston Red Sox Brooks emphatically suggested he belongs - for now, at least.

Aaron Brooks: Take Two

If you weren’t around in 2015 when Brooks came over from Kansas City in exchange for Ben Zobrist (alongside Sean Manaea) you may also recall two extraordinary starts followed by a couple of mediocre outings. All in all Brooks started 9 games that season, pitching 6 or more innings with 3 or fewer earned runs 5 times. In 2 other starts he was tattooed by the Toronto Blue Jays for 8 earned runs in 1.2 IP and another 6 earned runs at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in 6 IP. He allowed 4 earned runs in less than 3 IP across three relief appearances for Oakland. His 2015 season was a mixed bag to say the least.

Brooks was much, much better last night. And I will reiterate: it was just one game. Still, Brooks looked like a different pitcher and the early statistical returns back up that assertion.

Brooks’ Pitch usage/Velocity

Season FB% FBv SL% SLv CB% CBv CH% CHv
Season FB% FBv SL% SLv CB% CBv CH% CHv
2015 w/Oakland 59.7 % 91.6 15.0 % 85.3 4.5 % 77.5 20.8 % 82.4
2019 52.3 % 92.6 26.7 % 85.2 5.8 % 79 15.1 % 85.6
Fangraphs.com

Brooks average fastball velocity was up by 1 full MPH last night. He also threw his fastball less and his slider and curveball more. You’ll also noticed his changeup saw a velocity increase of 3 MPH.

Pitch Info tells a similar story but with more detail:

Brooks’ Pitch Usage (Pitch Info)

Season FA% SI% CH% SL% CU%
Season FA% SI% CH% SL% CU%
2015 w/Oakland 46.3 % 13.4 % 20.8 % 15.0 % 4.5 %
2019 30.2 % 22.1 % 15.1 % 24.4 % 8.1 %
Fangraphs.com

Brooks’ Velocity (Pitch Info)

Season vFA vSI vCH vSL vCU
Season vFA vSI vCH vSL vCU
2015 w/Oakland 92.6 91.5 83.1 86 78.1
2019 93.3 93.1 86.1 86.3 79.9
Fangraphs.com

Brooks also did an exceptional job at generating not only swings and misses, but swings at pitches outside the strike zone:

Brooks Plate Discipline

2019 O-Swing% F-Strike% SwStr%
2019 O-Swing% F-Strike% SwStr%
Brooks 41.1 % 68.4 % 12.8 %
League Avg. 29.3 % 61.3 % 11.3 %
Fangraphs.com

Conclusion

When Brooks needed a swing and a miss last night he threw his slider (19.1% SwStr) and when he needed a ground ball he threw his sinker (80% GB). His changeup did the best at generated out of the zone swings, coaxing a chase 80% of the time.

We’ve seen this story before, especially with Brooks. His last stint with Oakland opened with 14.1 IP and just 2 earned runs against Cleveland and Houston, respectively. It is far too easy to get excited from one great start. That doesn’t negate the fact that it was one great start. We can only hope there are more to come.