Chad Bradford: The Last of a Dying Breed
No one thought that Chad Bradford would make his high school team.
No one thought that Bradford would do well in a hitters ballpark.
No one thought that Bradford would become a reliable reliever in the big leagues.
Bradford became one.
I found out about Chad Bradford in July of 2005 when the Boston Red Sox acquired him from the Oakland Athletics for an outfielder by the name of Jay Payton. I found out more about him from the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, who devotes a whole chapter to the righty reliever.
In Moneyball, Lewis tells the story of Bradford in the chapter "Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher".
Bradford, currently with the Tampa Bay Rays, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 1996, and shot through the minors to make his Major League debut in 1998 at the age of 23. He had immediate success in the big leagues, but the White Sox thought of Bradford as a "Triple-A guy" or a "just in case guy", just in case someone got injured.
Bradford was amazing in the minors, and the Oakland Athletics found out about him. He was traded by the White Sox to the A's for minor-league catcher Miguel Olivo in 1999.
He paid dividends to Oakland, mostly because of his unorthodox pitching wind up. He is not a sidearm pitcher, but a true submariner. He drops his hands down so that his upper body is at almost a 90 degree angle, and drops his hand down so close to the mound, it appears as if Bradford's knuckles scrape against the top of it.
This has proved as an advantage and a disadvantage for Chad. One time, when he was warming up against the Toronto Blue Jays, his hand hit the mound so hard, the ball bounced up and flew over the head of Vernon Wells, standing in the on-deck circle.
Bradford's career record is 36-28 with a 3.23 ERA, an opponents batting average of .265 and a WHIP of 1.28. His best season was in 2003, with Oakland, when he had a 7-4 record, with a 3.04 ERA, an opponents batting average of .236 and a WHIP of 1.26. This season, Bradford is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA with 15 hits, two runs (both earned) in 7.0 innings of work this season. His opponents batting average is .417 and a WHIP of 2.14.
Bradford, 34, has played for the White Sox, A's, Red Sox, Mets, Orioles and Rays. Other pitchers (like Pat Neshek of Minnesota) have tried using Bradford's method, and some have even had modest success. But Bradford remains the best submarine-style pitcher, and one of the best setup men, in the big leagues.
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