Archie Bradley – Fireman for the Diamondbacks
Two seasons ago, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley had a tremendous season as a middle reliever, posting a 1.73 ERA and 1.041 WHIP over 73 innings in 63 games. He only allowed 22% of his inherited runners to score all season while notching 25 holds and 31 goose eggs vs. four broken eggs. Going into 2018, hopes were high, but Bradley had a rough second half of the season, sending his ERA for the year from 1.97 on July 14 to 3.64 at the end of the season. Complicating matters was a split fingernail on his right (pitching) index finger, preventing him from throwing breaking balls as much as he would have liked.
When 2019 started, Bradley – with a healed fingernail – was one of the setup men for new closer Greg Holland. He had a strong first six weeks of the season, striking out 17 hitters over 14 innings with an ERA of 1.93. However, a disastrous outing in Denver against the Colorado Rockies on May 5th (three hits, four earned runs, and a walk without recording an out) shot his ERA up to 4.50, and that began a disastrous stretch. During that span, lasting from May 5th to June 22nd, he allowed 19 earned runs, 28 hits, 14 walks, a 2.000 WHIP, and an ERA of 8.14. “Not that I was the worst pitcher ever, but I was pretty bad,” Bradley said. “I really did not have any clue where the ball was going.”
Getting His Groove Back
While fighting through the rough stretch, Bradley worked with the coaches, catchers, and even the analytics expert on his mechanics, sequencing, and location. This includes bullpen coach Mike Fetters, manager Torey Lovullo, pitching coach Mike Butcher, catcher Alex Avila, catcher Carson Kelly, and analytics head Mike Fitzgerald. He credits all of them with helping him both get back into form and regain his confidence.
Since the June 22nd game against the San Francisco Giants ended, Bradley has appeared in 13 games and 16 1/3 innings. He has recorded 20 strikeouts and a 0.980 WHIP while allowing nine hits and seven walks. No run – earned, unearned, or inherited – has scored off Bradley in this stretch. He has been lights out, recording three saves, two holds, and five goose eggs.
Archie Bradley Has Great Timing
His resurgence could not have come at a better time. Holland has been abysmal since an eight-day layoff in mid-June. The lowest moment for Holland came when he blew a save in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on July 2nd after surrendering five consecutive two-out walks. On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks designated Holland for assignment.
Meanwhile, Bradley has been incredible in relief. On July 30th – the day before the Diamondbacks traded Zack Greinke – Bradley pitched a four-out save without allowing a baserunner. On August 4th against the Washington Nationals, he pitched a two-inning save. Against the Phillies Tuesday night, he pitched a scoreless ninth to close the game in a non-save situation. Friday night on the road against the Dodgers, he pitched the bottom of the 11th to earn another save. His recent performance hearkens back to the days of the “fireman,” when a team would use its best relievers to get outs in critical situations, regardless of the score. (Now they tend to only use them in save situations.)
With the Diamondbacks now only one and a half games out of a wild card spot, Bradley’s performance down the stretch will be crucial. It also has a good chance of boosting the confidence and performance of the other members of the bullpen. Friday night, relievers T.J. McFarland, Kevin Ginkel, Yoan Lopez, and Andrew Chafin combined to retire all 12 batters they faced. Granted, it was only one game, but it was against the team with the best record in baseball. If Bradley and the rest of the bullpen can make this a habit, look for the Diamondbacks to not only make the postseason but make a deep run.
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