2019 stats: 76 G, 71.2 IP, 4-5, 18 SV, 3 BS, 3.52 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.0 WAR
2019 salary: $1,830,000
2020 status: $3,600,000 estimated (2nd-Year Arbitration Eligible)
Archie, Archie, Archie. What a storied and distinctive career you’ve had for the Diamondbacks, all in a mere four years. You’ve played so many different roles. Let’s recap:
2015: Makes the starting rotation out of spring training as a non-roster invitee, pitching 18.2 innings over his first three starts and only allowing 3 earned runs, before a taking a line drive to the face in his fourth start, sending him to the DL and essentially breaking him as a starting pitcher for the foreseeable future. He only appeared in four more starts the rest of the years, and saw his ERA balloon up to 5.80 by year’s end.
2016: Archie’s second year as a starter, wherein he started 26 games, and finished with a record of 8-9 and an ERA of 5.02.
2017: 63 appearances this year, all of them out of the bullpen, with 73 innings pitched and a breathtaking 1.73 ERA serving as the setup man for bargain basement closer and ulcer producer Fernando Rodney. This was the year Archie’s beard really began to mature as well, so that by year’s end there were official tee shirts of him and his beard being sold in the team shop at Chase, and fans wearing fake beards in his honor. He was young, feisty, enthusiastic, and shouty in the right kinds of ways...it seemed like he was becoming the face of the franchise. Oh, and in that crazy Wild Card game against Colorado, he actually got to take an at-bat, and did this:
Big damn hero time right there. Also, probably, his high point as a D-Back.
2018: Despite offseason speculation that he might be our next closer, he found himself slotted back in to set up for new bargain basement closer Brad Boxberger, and, well, he was no longer 2017 Archie. There was the ongoing issue of a fingernail problem, if I recall correctly, that impeded his ability to throw his knuckle curve effectively, leaving him basically a one-pitch pitcher, which is less than ideal if you’re anyone not named Mariano Rivera. His fire and attitude continued to be on display, but when you cease to be effective as a lights-out reliever (3.64 ERA, twice the earned runs and dingers allowed as the previous year, only 3 saves converted in 11 opportunities, 0.5 WAR, down from 3.5 in 2017), all the fire and attitude just start to come across as unearned bluster.
Which brings us to what we’re here for.
If there was one thing that brought Snakepitters together through much of the year, something we could all pretty much agree on and get behind, was how much we hated Archie Bradley. It didn’t help that coming into the year he was once again mouthing off about wanting to be our closer and get paid closer money and deserving closer respect, despite his disappointing 2018. What also didn’t help was his performance through the first half of the season. His fingernail was presumably healed (or was it blisters, or blisters AND the fingernail?), and he pitched very well in nine appearances in April (10 IP, 2 ER, 13K, 4BB, 1.80 ERA), but then posted a 7.30 ERA in May and a 6.59 ERA in June over 23 more appearances. He was terrible with runners in scoring position (9.45 ERA), especially terrible with the bases loaded (27.00 ERA), and basically, much to everyone’s relief, Torey Lovullo stopped giving him the ball very often going into the All-Star Break.
I think in terms of quantity of comments, Zack Godley might have got more fan hate than Bradley, but even if that’s the case it was a close-run thing. From early May onward, it was a steady drumbeat of arguments and pleas that Archie be DFAed, traded for lottery tickets, banished to Reno or Jackson, or just taken out into the desert and put out of our collective misery. And there were the poop emojis. SO MANY POOP EMOJIS. Yeah.
And yet, here’s the crazy thing. After Greg Holland’s arm fell off and he was benched and eventually sent packing, Archie was given a shot at being our closer. He got his wish--well, he got the job...the money and respect, not so much. But Archie was our closer. And you know what? He stepped up, and did remarkably well in that role. Far better, certainly, than anyone might have reasonably expected. After the All-Star break, he appeared in 31 games, pitched 31.2 innings, surrendered only 6 earned runs, struck out 33 while only walking 13, and converted 18 of 19 save opportunities on his way to a 1.71 ERA for the remainder of the season. It still feels weird to type this, and to even get my head around it, but he was pretty damn good in the closer role. Go figure.
Archie’s salary’s going to go up this offseason, taking him from the cheaper end of things and into the range that Mike Hazen has been willing to pay over the last three seasons for his assortment of bargain-basement closers. Rodney got paid $2.75M in 2017, Boxberger got $1.85M in 2018, Holland got $3.25M for 2019. Hazen’s gonna Hazen, so we might well see another late-winter dumpster dive. Given how long Bradley has been lobbying to have the closing job, though, and given how overpriced free agent top-shelf closers tend to be, and given how Archie performed once he was slotted into the role in 2019, it’s easy enough to see the closer’s job being his to lose going into Spring Training in 2020. And again, as weird as it is to be typing this, I think that might actually be a good thing.