Stats & Info: Milton Bradley

FanGraphs: Seattle's left field problem

April, 14, 2010
What do Jeffrey Leonard, Greg Briley, Kevin Mitchell, Mike Felder, Eric Anthony, Vince Coleman, Rich Amaral, Jose Cruz Jr., Glenallen Hill, Brian Hunter, Rickey Henderson, Al Martin, Mark McLemore, Randy Winn and Raul Ibanez have in common? From 1990 through 2004, each player in turn was the regular starter in left field for the Seattle Mariners. Not a single player repeated during that entire span. When Raul Ibanez occupied the primary starting role from 2004 through 2008, it marked the first time that the same person played left field regularly in consecutive years since Phil Bradley did in 1986 and 1987.

With Ibanez in Philadelphia, however, the Mariners left field carousel is back. Last year, the position was manned by Endy Chavez, Ryan Langerhans, Wladimir Balentien, Michael Saunders and Bill Hall. Saunders and Langerhans are in Triple-A Tacoma, while the other three are with other organizations.

For now, the de facto starter is Milton Bradley, but there are problems with that arrangement even without discussing Bradley's off-field baggage. He has had surgery on both knees in the past, and in 2009 he he missed games with minor pains in his left quad, groin, right calf, right hip, both hamstrings, left knee and right quad. Safeco Field holds a vast expanse of real estate to cover in left field, and Milton Bradley attempting to cover that much ground is bad for the team’s defense and bad for Bradley’s future health.

It would be a tougher decision if the Mariners were playing Bradley in left field in order to make room for a Vladimir Guerrero-type bat at DH, but they’re not. Most projection systems have the Mariners’ current DH platoon of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney at replacement level, meaning that they are not any better than what you’d expect to get from a player claimed on waivers. (Last year, Griffey was worth 0.3 wins above replacement, and Sweeney was 0.4.) There is no one blocking Bradley from moving to designated hitter. Not to mention the fact that Bradley had the best year of his career in 2008, when he posted a 4.6 WAR as a full-time DH for the Rangers.

With Bradley at DH, left field is opened up for a platoon of Eric Byrnes and either Ryan Langerhans or Michael Saunders; either pairing would provide solid defense coupled with enough hitting to allow Bradley to move to DH with no overall loss in left field. The Mariners are costing themselves about two projected wins with their current arrangement and, needing to make up ground in the AL West, cannot settle for another sub-par left fielder, even if that is the norm for the organization.

Matthew Carruth is a writer for FanGraphs.

Tuesday's 1st Pitch: Closing Numbers

April, 13, 2010
Today’s Trivia: April 13 is the anniversary of both Pete Rose’s first hit (1963 off of Bob Friend) and his 4,000th hit (1984 off of Jerry Koosman). Which pitcher did Rose have his most hits against?

Quick Hits: More fun with tiny sample sizes. This time, with the help of Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon, let’s take a look at some strangeness pertaining to closers.

* Jon Rauch has had an odd go of it, so far. He's started 13 of 19 hitters with an 0-1 count. Those hitters are batting .385 against him. The six hitters that he's started with a 1-0 count are hitless.

* For the first time in his career, Jonathan Papelbon has more walks (2) than strikeouts (1) in a season.

* Via Fangraphs, hitters have only swung at 11 percent of pitches that Mike Gonzalez has thrown out of the strike zone. Last year, they swung at nearly 31 percent.

* Also via Fangraphs: In three appearances, hitters have made contact on 94.7 percent of their swings against Rafael Soriano. Last year, they made contact on 71.3 percent (16th-best among the 341 pitchers to throw at least 50 innings)

* Jose Valverde, who has always been more of a flyball pitcher, has induced eight grounders compared to only one fly.

* Matt Capps has allowed two doubles and five walks in four appearances, yet has only been charged with one run. Opposing hitters are 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Key Matchups: Brandon Inge is 0-for-14 in his career against Brian Bannister, which matches his history with Bruce Chen for Inge’s most at-bats without a hit against a pitcher. It is also the most Bannister has faced anyone without allowing a hit. Gary Sheffield is 0-for-12 against him.

Jorge Cantu is 6-for-20 all-time against Bronson Arroyo, which normally would not be significant enough to be mentioned in this space. However, Cantu is swinging for history on Tuesday. He has at least one hit and one RBI in all seven games this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he can tie the MLB record tonight for consecutive games to start a season with both a hit and an RBI. George Kelly did it in eight straight games for the 1921 Giants. The good news for Cantu? He has four hits in his last five at-bats against Arroyo, including a pair of home runs.

Today’s Leaderboard: Two of the hitters struggling most so far this season are leading the majors in pitches per plate appearance. David Ortiz leads the way with 5.0, followed by Milton Bradley. Are they struggling with patience or because of it? According to, Ortiz has been caught looking at 37 percent of the strikes thrown his way, well above his career average of 25 percent. He has also only swung at eight percent of first pitches. His career average is 28 percent.

Trivia Answer: Rose had 64 hits off of Phil Niekro, four more than he had against Don Sutton. A big part of that were 266 plate appearances against the knuckler, 72 more than against Sutton. Fun fact: Rose did not strike out once in his final 101 plate appearances against Niekro.

BP: Milton Bradley is better when he misses

March, 5, 2010
At least Milton Bradley is never boring. This morning, the former Chicago Cubs outfielder was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Two years ago, I played, and I was good. I go to Chicago, not good. I've been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me." Obviously. Bradley, who has -- how to put this politely -- bounced around baseball, was reacting to criticism of his one-year tenure at Wrigley Field, in which he hit .257 with 12 HR, and then traded to Seattle. The 31-year-old switch-hitter claims that fans on the North Side expected too much out of him. Well, who's really to blame, Chicago or Milton?

In 2008, Bradley looked like he had finally put together all of his considerable raw talent into a coherent package. With the Rangers, he put up a .321/.436/.563 line. Riding that performance, he signed a three-year deal with the Cubs worth $30 million. Was his 2008 performance really the result of playing in a low-pressure media situation on a team that was not expected to contend? Perhaps there's another explanation. Take a look at the percentage of pitches he swung at outside of the strike zone going back to 2006.

2006: 18.5
2007: 20.5
2008: 20.8
2009: 19.6

Obviously, swinging at a ball outside the strike zone isn't a good idea because it leads to a lot of foul balls and weak tappers. Sadly for Bradley, he was usually rather good at making contact with these pitches. In 2006, he made contact with 59.1 percent of them, and in 2007, 58.0 percent. In 2008, while swinging at the highest percentage of pitches out of the zone in that four-year span, his contact rate on them dropped to 47.5 percent. He swung and missed more often at bad pitches, rather than making contact with them, and had a career year. In 2009, his contact rate was back up to 59.8 percent on balls out of the zone.

But there was another side effect that actually worked in his favor. In 2008, Bradley's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) jumped to .388, which appears fluky when compared to his career BABIP of .322. In 2009, his BABIP was a more vanilla .310, which is more in line with his career mark. Bradley's inability to make contact with balls out of the zone in 2008 meant that when he did hit a pitch, it was a better pitch and he was able to hit it harder. So, Milton Bradley, if you want to play the game of who's to blame, may I suggest looking in the mirror. You were fortunate to not make contact with some pitches that you had no business swinging at in 2008. And you are $30 million richer for it.

Mariners fans, if you see Milton lunging and missing at a ball out of the zone in 2010, thank your lucky stars.

Russell Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus