Cody Bradford got to live out his childhood dreams last night. The kid from Aledo, Texas who according to the Dallas Morning News played for a little league Rangers team got to put on the big league Rangers uniform and go out and play on the big stage of Globe Life Field. He put in years of hard work to get to this point. It did not go as he desired or as some fans were predicting it would go, but it also was not as bad as his line made it look. We are going to look at all of his numbers from last night and see where he came up short, what he needs to work on, and we are also going to look at the positive aspects from his start.
How Cody Bradford's debut came up short of expectations.
Bradford came into this game having a sparkling 0.91 ERA at Round Rock. It was expected that he would come up here and throw strikes, get outs, and be able to stay away from the middle of the plate and hard contact. I would say he did the first two at a good enough rate, but did not do the last one well enough.
His big issue last night was the changeup. It was moving, but it was not late movement. It was a slow enough drift that the hitters mostly did not swing at it. He threw 30 changeups last night and 19 were called balls. He only generated strikes on six changeups. The Braves did only convert one of the changeups into a hit, but mostly they were just not swinging and forcing him to throw his fastball, curveball, or slider.
His best pitch was his fastball. He had good location on that for most of the night. He was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire in the early innings at the top of the zone. He stuck with it though and was able to be successful with that pitch. All three of his strikeouts were on the four-seam fastball. He was able to locate it at the top of the zone, the corners, and at the bottom of the zone. It is truly just a 90mph fastball. Hitters only went 3-12 against the fastball. He showed that pitch can play at this level despite the lack of velocity.
The pitches he threw the least were the curveball and slider and for good reason. The Braves waited for those pitches and when they were thrown they were hammered. Kevin Pillar hit his home run on a hanging slider. Ronald Acuna then hit his two-run home run on a curveball that was out of the zone, but was hung as if Bradford was putting it on a golf tee.
Things then calmed down for him and he was able to get through the third and fourth innings clean. Then in the fifth he ran into trouble again. Watching the game, Bochy and the coaching staff I believe was a little slow on the call to the bullpen. I don't think I would have allowed him to go through Acuna and the top of the lineup a third time. The coaching staff did and that is when the Braves pushed this game out of reach.
He walked Orlando Arcia on changeups, then Matt Olson hit a double off a fastball that was in the middle of the plate, Albies doubled on a fastball over the middle of the plate, Riley had a 106mph lineout to left on a fastball that was over the middle of the plate. Credit to Bradford he did not give in and was able to get out of the inning after a seven pitch battle with Sean Murphy that ended with a groundout off a well-placed changeup.
That was it for Bradford. He ended up going five innings, giving up six runs, two of them from home runs in the second, struck out three, and walked two. The line is ugly, the ERA of 10.80 is ugly, and the 12-0 result in the game was ugly. It was not all negative though for Bradford as he did get through five innings and saved the bullpen from a night of work. He also does have somethings to improve upon.
What can Cody Bradford work on?
Today, Bradford is probably on his way back to Round Rock. He really needs to work on three things in my mind that will help him if he is called up again later this season. He needs to be able to have hitters missing on his changeup and he needs to have a better curveball and slider.
First, is changeup command. The movement on the changeup is nice, but it has to be sharper and have more late movement. Martin Perez has developed his changeup to the point that he can throw it in any count. It has that sharp movement that darts away from the strike zone as it is approaching home plate. Hitters have a hard time laying off because it looks like it will be a strike. Bradford last night had a hard time enticing hitters to swing at that pitch. He has to have that to be successful on this level.
The next two things to work on are having confidence in the curveball and slider. They have to be better pitches than they were last night. If Bradford is going to be a starter at the MLB level he has to have at least four pitches that he can throw with confidence. He only threw his curveball and sliders 11 times out of 90 pitches thrown. That is not near enough. That is probably because the Braves annihilated those pitches to the tune of an average exit velocity of 105 on the slider and 111mph on the curveball. I hope part of his plan going forward is to throw those pitches more in game-action even if it leads to a higher ERA at Round Rock. He cannot just be a two-pitch pitcher and succeed at the MLB level.
Bradford has had a lot of success for Triple-A Round Rock this season. Now he knows that there is more to do if he is going to be called back up and be able to stay up. The hitters' approach in the majors is different, the preparation is different, and the skill of the hitters is higher than anything he will face at Triple-A. I hope that over the next couple of months Bradford goes back to Round Rock and gets to work.
The pitcher I saw last night was far from a finished product. I did see enough to be able to say that I think he can be a successful major-league pitcher. There is enough there that he can be a reliable back-of-the-rotation pitcher.
His start was a success despite what the line looked like and the result was. He was called up to give the starters an extra day of rest. He accomplished that by pitching five innings. Cole Ragans did his job by pitching three innings. Sandy Leon kept anyone else from the bullpen from having to pitch the ninth. The starters got their rest, and the bullpen outside of Ragans got a full day of rest as well. Now the whole pitching staff should be rested and ready to go for the final two games of this series.