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It’s time to make Archie Bradley the closer

In a relative calm moment, the team should make the switch

St Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

[Editor’s note: This was written before Bradley allowed the go-ahead run in this afternoon’s game. So, I’m blaming Jack for that - Jim]

I’m not the first person to make the call for the Diamondbacks to turn the closer’s role over to Archie Bradley, and move Brad Boxberger to one of the setup roles. In fact in the past when others made this call, I countered they shouldn’t fix what’s not broken. But my reasons for doing it now might be slightly different than others.

While many imagine a “fireman” role, where Archie is deployed to fill the breach in the highest leverage situations, and get multiple outs when needed, the truth is he’s mostly being used as a typical 8th inning setup man.

  • He was called on to get 6 outs exactly once this year, and that was April 2nd in an extra inning game where he came on in the 11th.
  • He’s gotten 5 outs just twice, and one of those was opening day vs. the Rockies. He’s gotten 4 outs a total of five times.
  • 45 times he has been used to get 3 outs or less, (10 times getting 1 or 2 outs)
  • Since April 2nd, he has 47 IP in 50 games, less than 1 IP per appearance.
  • He’s entered the game in the 8th inning 35 of his 53 outings.

He’s an 8th inning setup man!

Lets look at how the leverage situations have been allocated to the pen. The following chart is from Baseball Reference Team Reliever Page. Edited for clarity and brevity

Sorted by Average Leverage Index, which is defined as follows:

“The average pressure the pitcher or batter saw in this game. 1.0 is average pressure, below 1.0 is low pressure and above 1.0 is high”

Reliever Leverage

Name IP G aLI LevHi LevMd LevLo Ahd Tie Bhd Runr Empt Out/GR Pit/GR
Name IP G aLI LevHi LevMd LevLo Ahd Tie Bhd Runr Empt Out/GR Pit/GR
Brad?Boxberger 39.2 43 2.10 28 8 5 34 6 3 2 41 2.8 16
Archie?Bradley 51.2 53 1.68 28 16 9 41 8 4 14 39 2.9 16
Yoshihisa?Hirano 47.1 52 1.51 28 13 10 36 10 6 13 39 2.7 16
Andrew?Chafin 38.2 53 1.07 19 10 24 25 10 18 19 34 2.2 12
Fernando?Salas 40 41 0.90 9 8 24 13 7 21 10 31 2.9 16
Jorge?De?La?Rosa 35 42 0.83 10 11 21 20 7 15 13 29 2.5 15
Silvino?Bracho 17.2 18 0.81 6 3 9 6 1 11 9 9 2.9 16
T.J.?McFarland 63.1 37 0.61 6 6 23 14 6 17 6 31 5.1 26

Table Explanations:

  • I included Salas, JDLR and Bracho even though the first two are no longer in the organization and Bracho is in AAA. But it helps give the context to show them as they’ve all pitched significant innings
  • Boxberger has seen the highest leverage innings for this bullpen, and the gap between him and Archie is not insignificant. In fact Box has the 3rd highest aLI in all the NL Archie ranks just 18th. So our best reliever is simply not getting the highest leverage. Mouse over column headings in the link for brief glossary explanations of the stats as well.
  • You can see that nearly half (25 of 53) of Archie’s outings have been in Medium or Low leverage situations.

Considering how the bullpen is now constructed, where you have all these role guys, I think they need to actually use their best reliever in the closer role. Sure….the save is a stupid stat. But since they are not totally maximizing Archie in the way that many imagine they should anyway, I’d simply feel more comfortable with Archie nailing down leads in the 9th. He’s a better reliever than Boxberger, and he should get the highest leverage innings, and for THIS team, in THIS season, that has been the 9th inning.

Archie vs. Box

ERA FIP SO/W HR/9 WPA Shutdown Meltdown
ERA FIP SO/W HR/9 WPA Shutdown Meltdown
2.96 3.57 3.64 1.05 2.20 26 5
3.40 4.53 2.89 1.82 -0.02 21 7

As for the timing, I think it’s a lot better to make this kind of move NOW, when you don’t have the emotions of a few blown saves in a row hanging over the team.

I know the team is unlikely to make this change. They will be loathe to shake it up that much at this juncture. But by all objective measures, and all visual observation, Archie is the better and more dominant pitcher and should be used accordingly. Boxberger, because of his HR problem, still needs to be deployed as often as possible in a “clean inning” situation, without runners on base.