For these 7 hurlers, the moment is truly upon them

September 9th, 2023

It's the time of year when everyone wants to be at their best. Don't worry about what happened two, three or four months ago. Being great now, as the playoff races reach the home stretch, is what matters most.

The pitchers below all had uneven beginnings to 2023, but as the season's first half shrunk out of sight in the rear-view mirror, they turned their years around and have helped improve their clubs' postseason chances.

Here are seven surging pitchers on playoff contenders.

Stats updated through Thursday's games.

, Brewers
It has taken Peralta a while to once again look like the pitcher who broke out in 2021 with 195 strikeouts over 144 1/3 innings and a 147 ERA+. He was hampered by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for more than two months last year, and this season contained uneven results as Peralta carried a 4.72 ERA and a 4.67 FIP into late July.

But something has clicked for Peralta over his previous eight starts. Since July 26, his 2.09 ERA is third best in the Majors among qualified hurlers, and none of them can top his 41% K rate. The NL Pitcher of the Month for August, “Fastball Freddy” has been dominating with his heater during this stretch; batters are slashing a meager .132/.185/.145 against Peralta’s four-seamer. The Brewers won seven of these eight starts and need their 27-year-old to keep this up if they want to finish atop the NL Central.

, Dodgers
On May 14, Brasier gave up three runs in 2 1/3 innings for the Red Sox in a blowout loss to the Cardinals. This raised Brasier's ERA to an unsightly 7.29 ERA, and he was designated for assignment the following day. At 35 years old, maybe this was the end of the line?

Then he got a lifeline from Los Angeles.

The Dodgers signed Brasier a few weeks later and got him into a game on June 21. From that point, he has permitted only 13 hits and three earned runs through 30 1/3 innings. How has this happened? Brasier has heavily reduced the use of his four-seamer -- which had a .393 opponents’ batting average in Boston -- and introduced a cutter that has produced a .176 opp. BA. 

Amid all of the question marks within the Dodgers' pitching staff, this veteran has emerged to become one of the most effective bullpen arms in the game.

, Braves
Morton’s season, much like the path of his fantastic curveball, has been anything but a straight line. His good and bad stretches have been bunched together throughout the year.

First five starts (through April 30): 2.76 ERA
Next seven starts (through June 11): 4.73 ERA
Next six starts (through July 18): 1.82 ERA
Next four starts (through Aug. 10): 7.32 ERA

And now the veteran is back on the upswing, with a 0.96 ERA and a .539 opponents’ OPS over his past five outings for the best team in baseball. This current run included a career first for Morton in his 16th year in the bigs: consecutive scoreless starts with at least 10 strikeouts. He achieved the feat last month, piling up 21 K’s across 13 sterling frames in victories over the Yankees and Mets.

, Orioles
In a perfect world, all top prospects would live up to the hype and fulfill their potential immediately upon breaking into the Majors. However, that’s rarely the case, and Rodriguez had his share of growing pains earlier this season. The preseason No. 7 prospect in baseball, Rodriguez was roughed up through his first 10 starts, carrying a 7.35 ERA and a .956 opponents’ OPS. This earned him a trip back to Triple-A in May.

But a lot has changed for Rodriguez since being recalled on July 17. His walk rate is down about 25%, his confidence is up, and the results have certainly improved. G-Rod’s ERA is 2.85 and his opponents’ OPS has plummeted to .575 over his previous nine outings. That includes a 4.9% barrel rate, which ranks ninth among qualified starters since that date.

, Blue Jays
Would you believe that a middle reliever who was cast off from a last-place club with a 5.06 ERA would turn out to be one of the best acquisitions leading up to the Trade Deadline?

The Blue Jays took a chance on Cabrera after the Cardinals DFA’d him on July 17, and the 26-year-old has quickly become a late-inning weapon for the AL Wild Card contenders. Cabrera has ceded only 10 hits and one earned run in 21 appearances. 

His K rate, which was commonly at or above 25% through five seasons with the Cards, has fallen to a below-average 20.6% with Toronto. But that drop has come with a huge reduction in walks, and that’s the most amazing part of Cabrera’s recent performances. He arrived with a poor 12.2% career walk rate. With his new club, Cabrera has allowed zero unintentional walks in 18 1/3 innings.

, Rays
Glasnow’s season debut was delayed by nearly two months thanks to an oblique strain suffered during Spring Training. Then, once he was able to get on the mound, it took him a while to rediscover the form that made him one of the AL’s toughest pitchers when healthy over the past few seasons. But the 6-foot-8 right-hander has found the right balance for him and has been rolling since late June.

Glasnow has lowered his ERA from 4.97 to 3.07 over his past 12 outings. That features a phenomenal 101:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 74 1/3 innings and a current string of nine consecutive quality starts. He turned in one of the best starts of his career Wednesday, tying a career high with 14 K’s in a triumph over the Red Sox. Given how Tampa Bay has lost three-fifths of its Opening Day starting rotation to injuries, Glasnow must remain a full-fledged ace for the club to attain its postseason goals.

, Marlins
Outside of a handful of rocky outings early in the year and a few blemishes in July, Scott really has done a lot to help the Marlins compete for an NL Wild Card spot this year; his Statcast percentiles are evidence of that. But let’s focus in on what Scott has accomplished in 13 games since the beginning of August:

15 innings pitched, zero earned runs, 17 strikeouts, two walks, a .445 opponents’ OPS.

Scott is one of only three pitchers with a 30% K rate and a sub-4% walk rate during this span (min. 50 plate appearances). And his four hard-hit balls are tied for the fewest in the group. No wonder he has become Miami's closer as of late.