22 August 2017

Everyone Missed on Parker Bridwell

Parker Bridwell was once considered a diamond in the rough.  Joe Jordan's group believed in him and threw down a 625k signing bonus on him in 2010.  His calling card was an intriguing sinker/cutter/slider combo that was devastating when on, which was actually quite rare but tantalizing enough that he peaked in the Orioles system around 2012 as a B level prospect.  Bridwell peaked as our 7th ranked prospect in 2012, but continued troubles eroded expectations.

Bridwell could never consistently control or command his sinker or cutter and the Orioles eventually insisted on him to ditch the sinker and to focus on his four seam fastball.  It took what was special about him, the sinker/cutter/slider combo and made him an ordinary minor league pitcher.  Other organizations still held out hope.  The slider would flash plus and scouts who saw him earlier remembered what he was capable of doing with a fully utilized combo.  On several occasions, the Phillies (where many of the Orioles execs under MacPhail wound up during the Duquette era) tried to acquire Bridwell.  The Orioles kept saying no until the flashes of above average pitches with a potential plus working combo faded away.

In April, the Orioles dealt Bridwell to the Angels for cash considerations, which was rumored around 50k.  At the time, I asked an executive for another club why his team passed on Bridwell and he replied, "Is there really anything interesting left? None of his pitches are plus, he cannot throw a change up, and he does not know where the ball will end up. We are trying to win games here and have no room to see if he can be what he was four or five years ago."

It is important to note that Bridwell was worth 50k.  That fact accompanies what the front office executive said and shows that not only did the Orioles give up on him, but that no one was beating down the door to beat out what the pitching starved Angels were offering.  That illustrates how low Bridwell's value had dropped across the league.  The game is unfortunately littered with once promising pitching prospects who never really performed well at any level.  The difference here is that Bridwell wound up doing something that even the Angels did not expect.

2017 Pitching Gamelog
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2017.

Over the past month, a couple of articles have been written on Bridwell's turn into a top notch performer for the Angels.  Pedro Moura wrote for the LA Times about how the Angels told him to change his approach.  They told him to no longer focus on throwing four seam fastballs.  He was told instead to focus on his sinker and cutter, what had originally made him such an interesting prospect.  In the Baltimore Sun, Eduardo Encina notes much of the same with the main emphasis being that Bridwell was told not to emphasize his four seamer and change.

Personally, I noticed a couple things.  First, when Bridwell was dealt, a deep dive in social media showed a common refrain from previous Orioles and their family which was a message to Bridwell that things will be better outside of the organization.  I first noticed it when Davies was dealt out and it pops up over and over again.  Second, Bridwell appears to have a smoother windup and is slower to the plate.  His cutter plays well against his sinker, but it no longer flashes plus.  His slider though has gained several inches in depth.  He still has trouble locating it, but it can really disrupt the at bat for a batter.

It appears to me that the organization's focus on making Bridwell a four seam/change up pitcher with a quick approach to the plate led Bridwell away from what he did well and limited the athleticism he could utilize in his pitches.  Those two prongs made it difficult for the club and any opposing organization to see that there was still a decent amount of talent underneath the seemingly wrong-headed developmental approach.

Before we skip too far down the Parker-Bridwell-Is-Now-A-Glorious-Pitcher route is to note that we are talking about 12 starts with a great 2.88 ERA.  His peripherals though suggest he has experienced a wonderful amount of luck.  Half of his earned runs (14) are due to a player scoring himself with a home run.  Only 14 of 80 baserunners have scored on him without directly hitting a home run.  He holds a 83.8% left on base figure, which is about 20% higher than one should expect (70-72%).  A typical LOB% would have him at a 3.27 ERA.

However, keep in mind how few runs are coming in off those home runs and consider his very low 5.5 k/9 rate, which would make him having the second worst rate in baseball if he qualified with innings.  They are a major reason why his FIP is 4.55.  As well as why his DRA is 5.26.  In other words, his peripheral metrics which are a better predictor of future success than ERA suggest that Bridwell's 77 innings of ace-like performance is abnormal.  Instead, we should expect him to slot in as a fifth pitcher in a rotation.  The Orioles though could use one of those, too.


Pip said...

When multiple pitchers leave an organization and improve, or come to our organization and decline, the immediate thought is that there's something wrong with the fundamental philosophy of our organization.
Bridwell seems to have gotten better guidance, but he also seems to have gone to an organization that allows him to "be himself" rather than insisting that he change, or rather, that he not change when he might prefer to.
There's something very wrong in our organization and it's deep rooted and we need to find out what it is.
Changing coaches without changing philosophy won't change anything.

gorav114 said...

It seems the same could be written about Miguel Castro. Castro made the roster with Toronto in 2015 with comparisons to Batances. He was sent down after struggling then sent to Colorado in Tulo deal. He made it 5 games with pitching starved Colorado before the Os got him for nothing. He's been a key bullpen piece covering multiple innings this season. Now the Os are looking to stretch him out as a fifth starter next season. You win some and you lose some.

Pip said...

Castro is nothing but potential. Let's wait till he succeeds before comparing him to someone who has already succeeded.

gorav114 said...

Maybe Castro is nothing but potential because he is 3 years younger? They both have around 80 pro innings with an era under 3. 13 starts does not make a career. I'm rooting for Bridwell and there is obviously something wrong in the Os developing of young arms but the point is other teams are also wrong a lot when it comes to young pitching.

Unknown said...

There is a reason why they call Anaheim Stadium "the Big A"