2018 Rating: 9.24
2019 Rating: 5.53
2018 Performance: 76 G, 71.2 IP, 4-5, 3.64 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 119 ERA+, 9.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.5/0.6 bWAR/fWAR
2018 Salary: Pre-Arb $581,900
2019 Status: Arb 2, EST $2,000,000
I don’t think you could’ve found a more popular athlete in the valley coming into the season. Archie just mashed a playoff triple and completed a dominant 2017 season, which saw the team make the playoff for the first time in a while. Of course with all that success came the fame (As much fame you could get from appearing in television and radio ads). Big things were expected, as they probably should’ve been with the season he just had. And to start, Archie did everything he could to live up to the hype.
His April was magical, finishing the month with a 1.72 ERA across 15.2 innings and was dominant in just about every appearance, using a 96mph fastball to blow by hitters. He appeared in 15 games to start the season, and the team was 14-1 in them. Of course that type of usage early on will on hurt you, and we saw that when the calendar flipped to May.
Just a tiny blip of course, as Archie still threw a shutdown 8th inning. But after averaging 95 the past month then suddenly seeing a 91 will give any manager/coach warning. A quick 3 game rest had him back to normal and Archie went right back to work, albeit a bit vulnerable to the long ball.
He allowed 3 in May, to go along with 2 blown saves and a loss, which had his ERA almost triple to 4.22. But of course Archie rebounded in June, pitching 12.2 innings with an ERA at 0.71. Absolutely fantastic stuff from the young reliever.
The All-Star break came and went without much fanfare. He had finished his 1st half at a miniscule 1.97 ERA. Sure, his strikeouts were down and hitters were had a low .220 BABIP against him, but it’s Archie we’re talking about here! He always had low BABIPs, including a .276 last season and while Bradley struck guys out, he never was known for his overpowering stuff like some other dominant relievers.
And wouldn’t you know it, Archie was human again. Colorado exploded for 6 runs against him in his first appearance of the 2nd half and it was all downhill from there. He finished July with a 6.17 ERA. With an August rebound at 3.75 and another pitiful performance in September/October, finishing the year at a 7.00.
So what happened? Well who knows. His velocity was the same as the early season but he lost command of his curveball due to a cracked nail on his finger, a pitch that was very good for him last season, and he became a two-pitch pitcher. While his cutter isn’t bad, without another pitch on a different plane to keep hitters honest, they can sit fastball and adjust easier than with his curveball. Said Bradley in a midseason interview with Nick Piecoro:
It just seems like this year guys are ready for a fastball and when they get it they haven’t missed it. There’s that fine line of up in the zone and up-up in the zone where I strike guys out. I think now that guys know that I’m a guy, you have to be a little more fine with it.
Despite the step back season from Archie Bradley, he’s still one of the only long-term options they have in the bullpen and should probably be the closer going forward. Out of all the players back there, when he’s on, he’s got the best raw stuff and the attitude to match. But was 2018 just apart of the randomness that is relievers? Or is it a dangerous sign to come?