clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2017 Arizona Diamondbacks Review #4, Archie Bradley

Archie Bradley wants to pitch and win!

Archie Bradley
Archie Bradley
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Date of birth: August 10, 1992
  • 2017 line: 63 games, 73.0 IP, 1.73 ERA, 79:21 K:BB
  • 2017 value: 3.7 bWAR
  • 2017 salary: minimum, arbitration starts 2019
  • SnakePit rating: 9.24

2017 analysis

A no-nonsense factual description would be too far off the mark of the quintessential Archie Bradley. His quirks and colors are more reality than ethereal.

The Beard! It started in the no-shave November of 2016, and has become his trademark. That beard is a fan favorite on souvenirs.

Our House! Archie Bradley demonstrated his Fire Chakra on 8 August. After three outs against the Dodgers, he pumped his first and screamed, “This is our house!” What a strong demonstration of his Fire Chakra! It showed his personal power, warrior energy, and transformation energy. He is self-confident, he has a strong sense of purpose, and he is self-motivated.

Prior Flashes. As a starter prior to 2017, Archie Bradley was inconsistent with flashes of greatness.

  • In 2015, his best 4 games had an ERA of 2.7, while his worst four games had an ERA of 12.0.
  • In 2016, his best 13 games had an ERA of 2.6, while his worst 13 games had an ERA of 8.1.

Spring Training. Archie Bradley stretched out and pitched every 5 days like a starter would. His ERA was a disappointing 6.27. He was better against left-handed hitters (ERA of 2.16) than right handed hitters (ERA of 9.58). [Spoiler: That split became very much smaller in the regular season] He did not earn a rotation spot.

Regular Season. Bradley was moved to the bullpen. Eureka! He was red hot!

  • In his first four games in relief, he pitched 9.1 inning with zero earned runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, and 11 strikeouts.
  • For the season, his ERA+ of 278 was by far the highest of any D-backs pitcher (Ray at 166 and Greinke at 149). His stats were amazing!
  • The Internet Baseball Writers Association voted Archie Bradley into third place in NL relief pitchers.

What happened to cause success? He dropped his sinker and his change-up, and stayed with his four-seam fastball and knuckleball curve. Most importantly, the speed of his fastball increased from 93.4 to 96.6.

It was a breakout season for Archie Bradley. He pitched very well against the Dodgers in the playoffs. In 2 games, he pitched a total of 4.2 innings with zero earned runs and 5 strikeouts.

Highlight of the Season.

First let’s set the scene. It’s the Wild Card elimination game against the Rockies, bottom of the seventh inning. The D-backs have a 1-run lead. The two teams have scored 11 runs so far; the game is too close to call. An outstanding pitcher, Pat Neshek is on the mound. His statistics are impressive! (2017 regular season ERA of 1.12 with Phillies and 2.45 with Rockies. 2014-15 post-season ERA of 2.08.)

Lovullo makes a bold move by not pinch hitting for Bradley. Archie Bradley walks to the plate with two outs and men on first and second. He works the count to 2 balls and 2 strikes. The crowd is extremely loud. He spits out a sunflower husk. He hits that next pitch into the outfield gap and the ball bounces to the wall. Cheering is felt more than heard. The third base coach windmills wildly as Lamb and Descalso race home. Archie Bradley rounds second base with long strides and slides into third base with a triple. Incredible!

Next, let’s look at impact. Two runs scored. Win probability added was 16%. The D-backs won the elimination game and they advanced to play the Dodgers.

2018 prospects

Archie Bradley will pitch for the D-backs. The big question is, “Which role?”

Mike Hazen stated his early plans. First, he expects Bradley’s best placement will be in the bullpen because the team has five starting pitchers. Although unexpected, injuries could change that plan. Second, he will remain flexible in how he builds the bullpen. That flexibility translates to Bradley’s best placement will not be determined until Hazen builds the bullpen.

Starter. Archie Bradley could be an excellent starter. Three reasons follow.

1. In 2017, some of the metrics that compare starters show Archie Bradley might be an incredible starter. He ranks first among D-back starting pitchers in ERA+, FIP, and HR/9. He ranks second in K/BB (Greinke) and SO/9(Ray).

Starting Pitching Metrics

Metric Greinke Ray Godley Walker Corbin Bradley
Metric Greinke Ray Godley Walker Corbin Bradley
ERA+ 149 166 142 137 119 278
KK/BB 4.78 3.07 3.11 2.39 2.92 3.76
FIP 3.31 3.72 3.41 4.04 4.08 2.61
HR/9 1.1 1.3 0.9 1.0 1.2 0.5
SO/9 9.6 12.1 9.6 8.4 8.4 9.7

2. Statcast shows that in 2017, Bradley’a pitching velocity and spin rate stood out as above average. He is circled in red in the upper right of the scatter chart.

3. Bradley said he would love starting. That love of starting means he will continually strive to be the best.

However, there are at least three challenges that would have to be overcome.

  • He has two excellent pitches. It is rare for a starter to see success without a third excellent pitch. The difficulty is facing batters the second and third time with the same two pitches.
  • He increased his fastball speed significantly. Statcast shows his pitching speed stands out from other D-back pitchers (as shown in scatterchart). Can that speed be maintained beyond 50 pitches? Would slowing it down reduce its effectiveness?
  • He pitches much better in day games. As a reliever, night games can be worked around. As a starter, it would be disruptive to change the rotation order to work around night games.

Archie Bradley, Day vs Night Games, 2017

Measure Day Games Night Games
Measure Day Games Night Games
Innings Pitched 20 53
Earned Runs 1 13
Strikeouts/Walks 4.50 3.59
OBP .237 .277
OPS .473 .602

A strong argument against making Archie Bradley a starter is the high value achieved in his new role, after years of struggling to be a starter. Why abandon his success? Why embrace more struggle?


Effectiveness. If it happens that Bradley becomes the closer, the question arises whether the new role would impact his effectiveness. Because of Bradley’s great attitude and flexibility, it is almost certain he would be effective as a closer.

Whether this role is best depends on how Mike Hazen builds the bullpen. Fernando Rodney has demonstrated excellence as closer. Will Hazen re-sign him? Will Hazen sign another closer? And Jimmy Sherfy is a great option for closer because of experience closing in the minors, his low walk rate, and his closer mindset. For more details, please read Diamondbacks Review #16, Jimmy Sherfy.

Set-up Reliever. Let’s compare Archie Bradley to a couple D-back relievers. Looking at the velocity and spin chart, Jorge De La Rosa was at the far left and Andrew Chafin was in the center. And Jim McLennan’s article talked about the pitching splits of these two lefty pitchers. Lets compare their splits with Bradley.

Comparison of Lefty-Righty Splits, 2017

Measure Chafin JDLR Bradley
Measure Chafin JDLR Bradley
ERA for Left-Handed Hitters 1.19 2.70 1.41
ERA for Right-Handed Hitters 5.34 5.17 1.98

Let’s look at stats that are used to compare relievers. The following table looks ate Chafin, Boxberry(2015), Bradley, JDLR, and Rodney. It shows Bradley and JDLR were better in Win Probability Added (WPA). It shows that Rodney was better in shutdown/meltdown ratio, and better in Goose Egg conversion rate.

Relief Pitching Metrics, Mostly 2017

Measure D-back Relievers Chafin Boxberger 2015 Bradley JDLR Rodney
Measure D-back Relievers Chafin Boxberger 2015 Bradley JDLR Rodney
Shutdown/Meltdown (SD/MD) 1.9 1.3 2.2 3.6 4.0 4.6
Goose Egg Conversion (Nate Silver) 12.5% 65% 84% 85% 91%
Inherited Scored : Inherited Runners (IS:IR) 58:239 15:49 3:13 8:36 1:33 1:7
Win Probability Added Per 9 IP (WPA/9IP)   WPA average of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference 0.076 .039 -.178 .309 .314 .206
clutch from Fangraphs -0.07 -0.61 -0.39 1.22 1.22
Data from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference

JDLR and Bradley have Goose Egg conversion rates that are very close to the same. However, they pitch very differently - number of pitch types, lefty vs righty, spin rate, and velocity.

Comparison of JDLR and Bradley, 2017

Metric JDLR Bradley
Metric JDLR Bradley
commonly used pitches four two
throws left-handed right-handed
Statcast spin rate (RPS) 29.7 38.2
Statcast velocity (MPH) 88.6 93.1
fastball velocity (MPH) 93.7 96.6

A first view is that although Bradley is a great pitcher, his specialized relief statistics show that he is not necessarily the best reliever on the team. Therefore, it is worthwhile to make another effort to develop Bradley into a successful starter. Maybe Bradley’s fourth season in the Majors is charmed?

A second view is that Bradley is awesome in the setup relief role, and because he pitches so differently, he adds a lot to the bullpen. This second view aligns well with Mike Hazen’s early plans.

I look forward to seeing Bradley pitch for the D-backs, no matter his role.