The veteran left-handed reliever pitched 40 games before getting traded to Atlanta
Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
No. 18, Brad Hand: 0.4 rWAR
In years past, the Rockies have struggled to fill their bullpen with left-handed relievers. Often it has fallen to a lone figure in the bullpen, but in 2023 the Rockies bucked that trend by adding Brent Suter and a true left-handed specialist in Brad Hand.
Hand joined the Rockies late in spring training on a one-year, $2 million deal in the wake of Lucas Gilbreath’s season-ending Tommy John surgery. It was a late-notice signing but, for all intents and purposes, was a move that made sense and proved to be beneficial for the team.
In 40 games this season, Hand pitched to a 4.54 ERA (4.01 FIP) across 35 2⁄3 innings of work. He enjoyed an uptick in his strikeouts with a 26.1% rate while issuing just 16 walks. The Rockies’ usage of him was quite evident as he was typically deployed to face left-handed batters in a role that is tougher to utilize with a three-batter minimum. He was quite tough on lefties, however, with opponents slashing just .143/.276/.204 against him.
Hand made the most of his limited arsenal. His fastball and sinker averaged 92 mph while he tossed in a sweeper that came in at 81 mph. His sweeper was incredibly effective with a 28.6% whiff rate while his fastball was essential in setting up a chance to toss the sweeper. He was hit harder over the course of the season but managed a 37% groundball rate, to escape damage that could have been caused by a 40% line drive rate. But a notable statistic was the fact he allowed just four home runs in total on the year
Hand was quietly effective throughout the season, which is why he became a trade target for other teams. Of his 40 outings in Colorado, Hand had one bad outing in which he allowed four runs on two hits due to three walks in a single inning of work. Otherwise, he never allowed more than two runs in a single outing. In six of his last seven chances, Hand exited without giving up a run.
Naturally, he struggled a bit more at home (4.91 ERA, .821 OPS against) and was a bit more effective on the road (4.15 ERA, .799 OPS against). Overall, his value on the mound was enough for the Atlanta Braves to send minor-league pitcher Alec Barger (who recently pitched in the Arizona Fall League) to the Rockies in exchange for his services.
Things weren’t as smooth in Atlanta for Hand, as he allowed 15 runs in 18 innings of work. Peripheral numbers were relatively the same for him after the trade, but he just didn’t find the same luck as he had in Colorado.
Hand was another example of Bill Schmidt signing a low-cost, low-risk reliever and milking some good baseball out of them before selling them at the trade deadline for profit. Barger showed potential in the system after the trade and could be another useful pitching piece the Rockies need in the years to come. Hand was no doubt a positive influence in the bullpen this season, as evidenced by him buying Justin Lawrence shirts for the whole team, and being celebrated for reaching 10 years of service time.
What started as a signing of desperation became a net positive for the Rockies when the dust finally settled.
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Title: Ranking the Rockies: No. 18, Brad Hand
Author: Skyler Timmins