Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley: We All Lose
When it comes to the Mariners and Cubs, I’m fairly split in terms of my opinions. I’m a fan of each team, and it’s hard for me to distinguish my fandom. The two teams have played only six games against each other outside of spring training, so there hasn’t been a lot of reason to root for one over the other.
Actually, the Cubs and Seattle hold some history together, as Lou Piniella managed the Mariners for several years, and Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs' Hall-of-Fame second baseman grew up in Spokane, WA.
Then the teams swapped two awful contracts, and somehow, I think both teams lost.
Carlos Silva is a pitcher whose repertoire lends itself to the belief that as a pitch-to-contact, strike-throwing pitcher who relies heavily on a two seam fastball, he pitches a lot of ground balls.
Silva’s 6.81 ERA, 25 home runs allowed, and 5-18 record as a Mariner disagree.
Actually, Silva’s ground ball percentage is around league average, but considering he strikes out batters just over half as often as an average MLB pitcher, and had regressed in terms of “control” (read: not throwing balls, which is not to be confused with “command”), he’s actually walked a close to league average percentage of batters faced in the past two seasons.
Although he’s known for his 188.1 inning, nine walk season in 2005.
But these statistics, despite being evidence of an extreme misconception of Silva’s past production, and perhaps an explanation of his obscene lack of production as a Mariner, were some how, some way, aided by the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.
In 2008, Silva allowed a .313/.361/.458 line to opposing hitters while pitching in Safeco Field. So essentially, opposing hitters posted an All-Star season against Silva.
And while his 74 batters faced in Safeco were a small sample by which to judge his 2009 season, Silva still allowed a .277/.356/.477 line to opposing hitters.
Wrigley Field however, is almost the anti-Safeco. Short walls and windy days could turn several Silva-allowed fly balls into home runs.
But the Cubs will save some money, as it appears the Mariners will send $9 million to help offset Silva’s contract, which has two years and $24 million left on it.
So for the Mariners, Bradley has gone from a bad contract (two years, $21 million remaining), to essentially a two year, $27 million deal, but without Silva on the roster.
For a switch-hitter that walks and hits for power, that still seems like an upgrade over a pitcher who looked primed for essentially a mop-up role in 2010.
But Bradley is also frequently misrepresented.
When the Cubs, and to a lesser extent Mariners, expressed interest in signing Bradley, I did some pretty intense research.
Bradley’s production was unquestionable, as his bat had translated to production both in Arlington and pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. He does spend most of his at-bats in the left-hand batter’s box, too, which made him particularly appealing.
Both teams were in search of a left-handed hitting bargain, and considering Bradley’s checkered personality history, he’d come at a considerable discount from the expected salary of a guy coming off a .999 OPS season.
Last offseason I read this article, and got a bit upset (I’m the last person to comment); the columnist, Fred Claire, had done a poor job of researching Bradley.
To paraphrase for non-link-clickers, he explained that the Cubs signed Bradley because of his left-handed production, while comparing the contradicting paths of Bradley's and Pat Burrell’s careers.
While Bradley, at least on paper, is a tremendous fit for the Cubs, there were some fallacies in the article (and an inaccuracy according to Baseball Reference, which at the time had reported one of Bradley’s 2008 home runs as a right-handed home run against a right-handed pitcher). Claire said that Bradley hit 12 of his 22 home runs in 2008 from the left-hand side.
The false implication however, is what struck a nerve. Bradley hit 12 home runs from the left side, but did so in 177 more plate appearances.
You see, while Bradley is a walk machine, who actually does step into the left-hand batter’s box more frequently than the right, it is explicitly ignorant to call him a productive left-handed bat.
Bradley’s career line against right-handed pitchers (when he bats left-handed) is .266/.365/.431. That pales in comparison to his .306/.387/.497 line against lefties.
In reality, when it comes to hitting against righties, the larger half of any platoon split at a position, Bradley’s .796 career OPS is not too far off from Ryan Langerhans’ 2009 OPS (.696), Bill Hall’s career (.725), or even Ken Griffey Jr. in 2009 (.718).
Not to mention, if Michael Saunders has made any kind of substantial improvements in the offseason, he could easily hit right-handed pitching better than Bradley.
But Bradley does hit lefties well. If he’s the right-handed half of the platoon split at DH or left field next year, this move makes sense.
Otherwise, for an additional $6 million over the next two seasons, the Mariners could have probably picked up a guy like Marcus Thames (.845 OPS and .260 ISO vs. lefties for his career).
And while power-hitting right-handers tend to struggle in Safeco Field, Thames' excellent raw power and bat speed translate much better than Bradley’s marginal power.
Ultimately, Bradley is only a slight offensive upgrade to the Mariners, and a defensive downgrade from any of Hall, Langerhans, or Saunders.
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