Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Glory of Their Time, Chapter 5: Chad Bradford

In doing these "Glory of Their Time" posts, I'm trying to recognize guys who don't often get a lot of recognition in the baseball card community or simply the baseball community, for that matter.

You won't see guys like Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter. I've got nothing against either of them, but they've gotten their recognition. I'm talking about guys who the casual fan might not know.

I'm talking about guys like Chad Bradford.

1999 Fleer Tradition #377 Chad Bradford RC

Chad Bradford's major league career began in 1998 when he pitched in 29 games for the White Sox. He'd been drafted by the Sox just two years before in the 13th round. 

As shown by this card, Bradford had his "submarine" delivery right from the start. I'm not sure how anyone hit him when you had the ball coming from way down below like Bradford threw.

2002 Upper Deck Fortyman #56 Chad Bradford

This is the only card I own of Bradford that doesn't show him in the middle of his submarine delivery.

Anyone who's read Moneyball or seen the movie probably knows who Bradford is. He was among the best of Billy Beane's "finds". The Sox sent him to the A's in 2000 for a player to be named later. To be fair, that player was Miguel Olivo, who has proven to be a decent major league catcher. But he did next to nothing in his tenure with the White Sox from 2003 to 2005.

Bradford was undervalued because he didn't throw very hard and had next to no strikeouts. His weapon was ground balls and pinpoint control. He'd post a 2.70 ERA and walk just six batters in 36 2/3 innings in 2001. 

He'd be used much more in his "Moneyball season" of 2002, pitching in 75 1/3 innings and putting up a 3.11 ERA. He'd walk just 14 batters. I don't know how he got the ball over the plate with any kind of consistency with his windup, much less walk less than one batter every five innings.

2003 Topps Total #796 Chad Bradford

One of the more fascinating stories I learned about Bradford in Moneyball was that he used to take a shiny white rock with him to the mound every time he pitched in high school. For three whole years, he pitched with a shiny rock at his side. Although he was able to rid himself of the shiny white rock, he still had other idiosyncrasies during his tenure in the majors. He always threw the exact same number of pitches in the bullpen every time he warmed up and he never picked up a rosin bag in his career.

In 2003, he'd post a 3.04 ERA in 77 innings. Although his walk total increased to 30, not a lot of those hitters came around to score in '03.

2004 Topps #247 Chad Bradford

This almost looks like the exact same picture on the '03 Topps Total card I featured. But I don't blame Topps one bit; it's a great shot.

Even before I read Moneyball, I was a fan of Bradford. But I always wanted to know one thing about him: How did he develop that delivery?

Apparently, his father had a stroke when Bradford was still young. After his father made an amazing recovery, they'd often have a good old father-and-son game of catch. After the stroke, Bradford's father couldn't lift his arm above his shoulder, so he'd often toss the ball back to his son underhanded. The throwing motion stuck in young Chad Bradford's head. 

Since he couldn't throw hard, Bradford's high school coach taught him how to throw sidearm. As time went on, Bradford unwittingly began to drop lower and lower when he pitched, eventually developing the submarine delivery he became famous for. He often scratched his fingers on the dirt while pitching.

Bradford would have a down year in '04, putting up a mediocre 4.42 ERA in 59 innings. 2004 would turn out to be Bradford's final year in Oakland.

2006 Upper Deck #703 Chad Bradford

2004 would also turn out to be Bradford's final Topps issue. All the cards I own from the remainder of his career were all produced by Upper Deck.

Bradford would be traded to the Red Sox in 2005, where he'd spend a brief portion of career. He'd post a modest 3.86 ERA in 23 1/3 innings in Boston. His short tenure as a Red Sock didn't even warrant a card.

He'd sign with the Mets for 2006, where he'd have a bounce-back year. He'd pitch 62 innings (with just 13 walks), the most he pitched since '03. His 2.90 ERA was also his best since '01.

2008 Upper Deck #175 Chad Bradford

This might be the best shot I've ever seen of Bradford. 2008 Upper Deck wasn't an overly fantastic set, but UD certainly got this one right.

He'd sign with the O's for the 2007 season. He put up yet another fine year out of the Baltimore bullpen, posting a 3.34 ERA. 

 2009 Upper Deck #897 Chad Bradford

He'd be sold to Tampa Bay in August of 2008. He'd put up a sparkling 1.42 ERA in 19 innings as a Ray. Between Baltimore and Tampa Bay, he'd post a 2.12 ERA in 59 1/3 innings.

It's hard to believe that he'd pitch just 10 1/3 more innings as a big leaguer.

He'd close out his career with the Rays in '09, putting up an unspectacular 4.35 ERA.

I often liken Bradford to previous GOTT subject Wilbur Wood. Like Wood, Bradford stood out from the everyday major league pitcher. He didn't need a quirky personality. He didn't need a heavily dyed beard.

All he needed was his windup.


night owl said...

I have no cards of Bradford, even after watching Moneyball. After seeing this post, it's painfully obvious that I need to get at least a couple.

hiflew said...

Welcome to the big leagues, kid. You've officially made it when you're on the SCB.

I am almost completely anti-Moneyball. It has some good points but Billy Beane has still never won the World Series and probably won't for a while.

Onto the actual post. I don't remember ever seeing Bradford pitch, but I may have to find some old game footage because that looks awesome.

Nick said...

Here's a cool mini-documentary clip I found of Bradford: