Through the first three games of the 2020 season Brad Hand has been less than stellar. While Hand’s first appearance was uneventful for the most part, it is his last two that are concerning. Hand allowed 2 hits and 1 run in his second appearance and was a complete disaster in Wednesday’s loss to Chicago. The fact of the matter is that this is not a recent turn of events. Hand’s struggles can be dated back to last season.
Brad Hand blew his first save of the season last year on June 25th against the Kansas City Royals, allowing 5 runs on 5 hits including a home run. Cleveland would go on to lose that game 8-6. From then to the end of the season Hand struggled. In 23 innings opponents slashed .337/.407/.554/.962 off of Hand in his final 25 appearances. This includes 34 hits, 17 runs, 10 walks, 5 home runs, and 5 blown saves while only striking out 34 batters. In the previous 35 games (34.1 innings) opponents slashed .161/.227/.237/.464 with 19 hits, 4 runs, 8 walks, 1 home run, and he did not blow a save while striking out 50 batters. So far in 2020 Hand is allowing a slash line of .333/.462/.556/.1.017 with 3 hits, 4 earned runs (5 total), and 1 walk while striking out 4 in just 2.1 innings.
Hand is throwing less strikes in each segment mentioned here. 69% in the first 35 games of 2019, 67% over. the next 25 games, and 64% in 3 games in 2020. Opponents are only swinging and missing on 7% of strikes that Hand is thrown in 2020 compared to 14% and 18% in 2019.
There are only 60 games (54 more) in 2020. If Brad Hand continues to struggle and his velocity continues to drop (nearly 2 MPH in 2020 when compared to 2019), Cleveland may have to make a change at the back end of the bullpen. The team simply cannot afford to wait out a reliever to see if he can reverse trends that are not heading in a good direction. A pitcher only has so many pitches in his arm, a reliever has significantly less than a starter. Once a pitcher reaches a certain point where they are not longer as effective as they used to be. It has been seen before in Cleveland with the likes of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and countless others. Brad Hand could just be the latest name to add to this list.