The Diamondbacks face an interesting decision. With the struggles of Archie Bradley since the All-Star Break, one has to worry if he’s hit a physical wall. Bradley has had two superb starts against the Dodgers on July 17th and the Brewers on July 27th. Unfortunately, those are aberrations compared to a more disturbing trend. Bradley struggles with the pitch count, as he’s approaching 100 pitches in the 5th inning of his outings.
Over the course of the season, Bradley’s four-seam fastball velocity has slowly declined, dropping from a peak of 93.6 MPH in June. His fastball has dropped a full MPH since the break, and opponent’s batting average against the fastball has jumped from .237 in June all the way up to .323 in July and .396 in August. Both trends are a major red flag for a pitcher. That makes you wonder if that’s a result of fatigue or some sort of undisclosed injury. I honestly don’t think Bradley is injured, because he’ll occasionally show that flash of brilliance that he had in his good starts, so the answer has to be fatigue.
2016 would be the first season that Bradley has not spent time on the disabled list since 2013. Bradley missed time in 2014 with an elbow scare and in 2015 took a line drive to the face then tweaked his throwing shoulder when the team rushed him back. Bradley threw 100 2⁄3 innings in 2014 followed up by 65 innings in 2015. So far this season, he’s thrown 145 innings between AAA and the majors, which is more than double what he threw last year and almost as many innings as he’s thrown the last two years combined.
For Bradley, walks and command have been an issue for his entire career. In the minor leagues, Bradley could just out-stuff hitters and get away with ineffective command. At the major league level, the hitters are too smart and too talented to get out-stuffed. Bradley is still 24 years old, so the team needs to manage him carefully. Hopefully Bradley takes this year as a learning process and comes back next season even better.