Brown focused on consistency with offseason work

January 28th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Now that he’s had a chance to reflect on his 2023 rookie season, Astros right-hander admits fatigue was one of the factors that led to his subpar second half. That’s understandable when you consider Brown’s 162 2/3 innings pitched last year, including the playoffs, were 30 more than he amassed in any season since he was drafted by Houston.

Brown was 6-4 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in his first 15 starts of the season, including four starts where he pitched seven innings and didn’t allow an earned run. Opposing hitters had a .672 OPS against him in that span. In his final 14 starts in the regular season, he was 5-9 with a 5.95 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, with opposing hitters posting a .920 OPS.

“I think some things in my mechanics changed probably due to fatigue without even realizing it,” Brown said last week. “I was getting a little bit more crossfire [in my delivery] which diminished my ability to get the fastball away, to right-handers especially. I was leaving it more arm-side, so they were able to do more damage on my fastball-cutter. That was definitely something that we talked about and we’ve got to stay on that this year and keep making adjustments as the season goes on.”

Brown said he’s working with pitching coaches Josh Miller and Billy Murphy on a new slider that will have a lower velocity, which will give him another weapon from the cutter-slider he threw last year. That pitch averaged 91 mph last year, and his fastball averaged 96 mph. Right-handed hitters posted an .839 OPS against Brown last year (lefties had a .728 OPS).

“Going into it, we talked about [how] at the end of this season my numbers weren’t as good as they were at the beginning, and how to combat that and see what we can do to capitalize on a good, whole, entire season,” Brown said. “Coming off a full season, the timing’s a little bit different, too, with when you start throwing with more intensity.”

Brown messed around with a sweeper last year at times and found that throwing something with that much break from his arm side was difficult to keep in the strike zone.

“We’re just going for something that the biggest thing is going to be the velocity change we’re shooting for,” Brown said. “Just kind of started working on it over the last couple of weeks as throwing intensified. I’ve thrown two bullpens so far these past two Fridays [Jan. 12 and 19]. That will be a big thing for me to work on in Spring Training, for sure.”