Thursday, September 04, 2008

Was He The Right One?


earned runs
E. Guardado


L. Hawkins


C. Bradford


The Twins decided due to internal scouting reports not to place a waiver claim on Chad Bradford and instead allowed him to funnel past the team on the waiver wire only to be nabbed by the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays. Every Ray fan owes Bill Smith a debt of gratitude for that. Since his relocation to Tampa on August 7th for a player to be named later, the Rays have gone 16-6. And that has very much to do with Bradford. Bradford has been used in 12 games, mostly in very high leverage situations (as indicated by his 2.16 pLI). A heavy groundball oriented pitcher thanks to his nearly underarmed motion with a career groundball rate of 64.4%, Bradford went from a team whose defense converted a very low amount of balls in play into outs (.684 DER) to the American League leader (.708 DER). Would Bradford have contributed the same amount of success to the Twins? The answer is probably not. Because Bradford puts the ball in play so frequently he would be reliant on a Twins defense that has been even worse than the Orioles in converting outs (.682 DER).
In my analysis of the Hawk prior to the trade deadline, I suspected that he would be a serviceable addition to any bullpen but that any team that acquires him should anticipate a wide veriety of results. Houston, however, has only found one: success. When the Astros signed Latroy Hawkins after he was designated for free agency by the New York Yankees, there were several eyebrows raised in the baseball community. After all, general manager Ed Wade and his team were 50-57 staring up at a 13.5 game deficient to the division leading Chicago Cubs why invest in an 8th inning guy? Since adding Hawkins, the Astros have the best records in all of baseball going 24-9 in that stretch. For his part, Hawkins has yet to surrender a run and has struck out 43% of the 37 batters faced in his 14 appearances. Unlike Bradford who has been counting on the seven guys behind him to accumulate outs, Hawkins has blown away the National League opponents. What has changed besides venue and fewer match-ups against the strong lineups in the American League East? The Astros have coaxed Hawkins into using his curveball more frequently (15.2%), throwing it slightly less than his slider (18.2%). Yes, it is a small sampling, but even his fastball has more zip on average down south. While with the Yankees, Hawkins was topping out at 92.5 since the move his fastball is hitting 94 on average.
As the Rays and Astros bask in their new found bullpen saviors, the Twins have scratched their heads in wonderment about what went wrong with Eddie. In his short tenure with the club, the Twins have gone 3-5 since the August 25th trade with the Rangers. So far, Guardado has detracted from the team, subtracting 0.19 in their win probability in those 4 appearances. This should not be a surprise to anyone. The 37 year old lefty has been on and off a gurney for the better half of three seasons. When studying his trends last month, it was obvious that his arm my not have the life to pitch an entire season without wear. In August his batting average on balls in play went from .216 in July to .423. Since the swap with the Rangers, Guardado has witness that BABIP spike to .668 thanks to an absurdly high line drive rate. Though just pitching in 4 games and facing a small sample of 16 batters opponents have hit 9 line drives hit off him. This is an indication that he is possibly pitching with a tired arm that is resulting in balls up in the zone.