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2020 Arizona Diamondbacks reviews #13: Archie Bradley

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Archie’s value for the Diamondbacks is not only on the pitch, but also off the field. Bring back the Beard!

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Rating: 5.68
  • Age: 28
  • 2020 Stats: 10G, 10.2 IP, 4.22 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 12:3 K/BB, 6S, 1BS, 112 ERA+
  • 2020 Salary: $4,100,000
  • 2021 Status: unrestricted free agent

Introduction

“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”.

Those were the words Dano_in_Tucson wrote when he reviewed Archie’s 2019 season. Archie Bradley had a tough start to the 2019 season, which saw him getting loads of criticism, and the SnakePit was quite harsh on him as well. Sean Testerman showed us in May 2019 that Archie’s slump in 2019 was prolonged, starting in July 2018. Over that period he pitched 46.1 innings with an ERA of 5.83 ERA and a -2.85 WPA. The command was gone, the velocity was down and it might have been related to the whole fingernail issue.

“Archie’s working really hard. We’re working on a couple things with him, trying to get his fastball spin rate back to where it was with him. I think it’s finding that right arm slot, right pitch usage”, said D-backs assistant GM Jared Porter on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf in June 2019 on the work to be done.

His presence did not help him either at that moment. Bradley is a personality and has been very engaged to Arizona sports, appearing at all kinds of games in some ludicrous way, like you can see on Cut4. That works great when you have it going for you, but once you don’t perform, you get criticised for that. It was one of the additional hurdles he had to overcome, and blocking this site’s Twitter account was probably one way to do so.

Like James Attwood wrote in his review of the best Diamondbacks pitchers of the decade, after a heart to heart talk with Hazen and Lovullo and some extra work, Bradley managed to turn his season around and he closed out the final eight weeks of the season in strong fashion, establishing himself as the team’s new closer after Greg Holland was designated for assignment.

Coming into 2020 and with the signing of veteran and former closer Héctor Rondón, there was speculation again about who would be the closer:

“Whether he’s the closer or not — I know everyone’s going to want to know that through the course of the spring. We’ll get to that answer, who our closer will be. But I really liked what Archie did last year and I think he’s going to pick it up this year.”, said Manager Torey Lovullo in February 2020.

2020 review

Normally Jack Sommers would have brought some insightful statistics here, but unfortunately he was hindered to do so. So here am I again, pouring some extra salt into the fresh wounds of 2020 statistics: my appologies for the small sample size evaluation.

In all honesty, Archie being #13 on this list shows how bad the Diamondbacks were and how well Archie was regarded, and that is probably because of the number of saves he racked up. It shows that on the surface we stick to what we remember: he got 6 saves in 7 save opportunities, so that is fine. He blew one, in his very first game against the San Diego Padres, but he got the win eventually so that was fine as well. No losses, so no special harm done to the Diamondbacks by Archie.

But if we scratch just a little bit, there are some things we can bash on, despite just 10.2 innings in Sedona Red:

  • Archie Bradley had just 4 hitless outings.
  • Archie Bradley allowed runs in 3 of 10 outings.
  • Archie Bradley allowed inherited runners score in 3 of 10 outings, a total of 44%.
  • Batters had a .317./378./415. batting line against Archie Bradley, good for a .792 OPS.

Part of it was bad luck: Lady Fortuna was definitely not on his side in the desert with a .447 BABIP and an example of that you can see in the video below. But on the other hand, you cannot expect your defence to save you each time you deliver a meat ball, and Archie Bradley delivered too much of those in Arizona (9.4% in 2020, D-Backs + Reds).

Archie Bradley 2020 BABIP (Statcast)

In all honesty, I think Archie was lucky he was not hit much harder. Maybe most batters didn’t expect the meat balls he threw at them and that is why his Exit velocity this year was down, but his barrel% went way up in 2020: in general from 4.8% to 9.8% (D-Backs + Reds), and 13.8% if we compare it with his time for the Diamondbacks in 2020 only.

His K/9 was still good with 10.13, and he issued less walks as well (2.53 BB/9).

But underneath, Archie Bradley was struggling:

  • The velocity on all of his pitches was down from the previous year.
  • Spin rates were lower on all of his pitches.
  • His sinker was a worthless pitch (.395 xwOBA).
Archie Bradley pitch tracking (Statcast)

On August 30 Bradley blew a tied game against the San Francisco Giants, when he let two inherited runners score, handing over the loss to Stefan Crichton, and allowing one of his own runners to score as well.

We were deprived of seeing how Archie would go forward from there, because he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Josh VanMeter and Stuart Fairchild.

I think we all felt a bit sorry.

He pitched a lot better in Cincinnati by the way, as can be expected, but you would have to read about that on the Red Reporter.

2021 outlook

With one arbitration year left, the Cincinnati Reds decided to go cheaper than the Diamondbacks and non-tendered Archie Bradley, which, at least to me, came as a surprise at that moment. Is a return to the desert a possibility?

“I’m not going to comment on any one specific free agent and what our goals are. I love Archie Bradley. I don’t think that’s a secret. I love what he did for us for so long. But I’m not going to get into any specific conversations or strategy with the offseason.”, thus said GM Mike Hazen in December 2020 for mlb.com when asked.

Archie Bradley is probably not a top reliever. His 2020 statistics, although being a small sample size, are a bit worrying. On a team like the Yankees or the Dodgers he might make it as a useful 6-7th inning guy and maybe they will sign him for that.

With the current batch of D-Backs relievers, and despite the 2020 stats, Archie would immediately be one of the better ones here and will probably slide right into the closer job again.

But Archie’s value in Arizona is a bit more than just a baseball reliever. He is a guy you can rally behind, and is one of those players the team could use as ambassador. Archie is marketable, and much more than, say, Madison Bumgarner. Who does not like a guy that has been one of the most prominent faces of Arizona sports and supports all Arizona teams? In a time where the Diamondbacks do not have a team people talk or care much about, a guy like Archie can make a difference for fans. Both on and off the field. Bring him back on a one year deal for 4-5 million and give fans someone they will want to see, and can be thrilled about, especially when he tells A.J. Pollock again to get off the field.

A thank you goes out to Makakilo for providing some additional information!