Orioles reliever Brad Brach wins arbitration case, will make $3.05 million this season

Orioles reliever Brad Brach receives a lesson in numbers in his first arbitration hearing.

Even though Orioles right-hander Brad Brach felt confident heading into his arbitration hearing Thursday, he said he still felt a little uneasy going into his trial. It was his first time going through the process, and he was eager to get it out of the way so he could completely concentrate on the upcoming season.

“The last two nights, it’s just been tough with sleep,” Brach said. “I wasn’t nervous about it. I just wanted it to be done with. After we went through everything Thursday, I just want to see how we did basically. Nobody likes to lose. Hopefully I get some good news here.”

Coming off the best season of his career, Brach received good news Friday morning when he found out he won his case, handing the Orioles a rare arbitration loss. Brach will make $3.05 million this season, more than doubling his $1.25 million salary from last year.

Brach’s win marked the first time the Orioles have been defeated in arbitration in 22 years, since right-hander Ben McDonald won his hearing in 1995.

It is just the second time that the Orioles have lost an arbitration hearing in 13 instances since managing partner Peter G. Angelos took over the club. The Orioles had won nine straight hearings, including one this offseason against catcher Caleb Joseph.

Brach was one of the Orioles’ three arbitration-eligible players whose salary was unsettled by the deadline for the team and player to exchange figures last month.

The Orioles employed a “file-and-trial” approach this year, telling players they were ready to go to an arbitration hearing with all unsettled players with no further negotiation. But they settled with right-hander Kevin Gausman before his scheduled trial date.

Because he had the widest gap in figures — a $525,000 difference — Brach seemed headed to an arbitration trial all along. The Orioles proposed a $2.525 million salary to his $3.05 million filing. There was some negotiation leading up to the trial, but the sides ultimately went to a hearing.

“We never really got close enough to the point where I was thinking about [settling] just because I had a number set in my head,” Brach said. “We just were never able to get to that number. I knew going into it what the process involves and I was just willing to go [to a hearing]. If there’s a year to go, being an All-Star like I was last year and having the numbers I thought I put up, I figured it was a good year to go.”

Given the season Brach had last year, it was hard to argue against him. He was 10-4 with a 2.05 ERA, 24 holds and two saves in 79 innings. He posted a 0.91 ERA in 49 1/3 innings in the first half of the season, earning a trip to his first All-Star game. His ERA in the second half rose to 3.94 over 29 2/3 innings. Brach held right-handed hitters to a .126 clip overall, but lefties hit .288 against him, a mark that rose in the second half because he struggled with his changeup.

Still, Brach’s wins above replacement (WAR) was 2.6, which was sixth best among American League relievers. Orioles closer Zach Britton led all AL relievers with 4.3 WAR.

Brach said the Orioles — who were represented by Glenn M. Wong, who serves as an outside counsel to the team — used many metric numbers to make their case, including ones Brach conceded he didn’t understand. One of those metrics was gmLI, or game leverage index, which is a statistic to quantify the pressure situations a reliever faces when he enters the game. Brach’s gmLI was 1.26, and by comparison, a neutral leverage situation is a gmLI of 1. Britton led the Orioles with a 1.67 gmLI.

“It’s a lot of just numbers and those metric stuff that I don’t really understand, salary raise-type stuff,” Brach said. “It’s a lot of stuff that’s not necessarily my stats versus theirs. … They try to compare it any way they can to try and make it so I don’t get the raise I’m asking for.”

Brach said he didn’t take those arguments personally, realizing that it’s part of the arbitration hearing process.

“I can understand you taking it personally, but nobody from the team has said anything,” Brach said. “I didn’t say anything. You just kind of sit there and you just have to understand that it’s not personal. And if you take it personal, I can see how you can get mad and it could affect you, but you just have to go in knowing that it’s not a personal thing.

“Like I said the other day, I’m extremely lucky to play this game and I get paid a really good salary to play. We all do and I think if I was going be mad over the difference, I shouldn’t be playing. I should be doing something else. That’s just the way I look at it.”

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