Parker Bridwell Might Be…Something
On the same day that the Yankees designate Ronald Torreyes for assignment, the Yankees acquired Parker Bridwell, a pitcher who had been designated for assignment by the Angels. At first glance, acquiring Bridwell is nothing more than a case of the Yankees taking a flier on a pitcher who struggled mightily in 2018. There is simply no way to sugarcoat the fact that Bridwell gave up more than two hits per inning and got hammered in just 6.2 innings of work in 2018. Even in his breakout 2017 season, Bridwell only struck out 5.4 batters per 9 innings, and while his 3.64 ERA was sparkling, his FIP (a measure of what a pitcher’s ERA would be based on his peripheral statistics with a neutral defense behind him) was just 4.84. So the question remains: why am I excited?
Earlier, I expressed my desire for the Yankees to utilize tandem starters in the 5th rotation spot during the 2019 season. First off, let’s take a look at what Bridwell’s velocity looks like as he faces a batting order multiple times:
Graph courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net (click to enlarge)
Bridwell lost approximately 1 MPH on all pitches by the time he faced a batting order the third time. While this does not sound significant, Bridwell is just above average from the perspective of velocity during his first time pitching against an opposing lineup. Any loss in velocity from that point makes him significantly more hittable. Digging into the stats from his breakout 2017, here’s what Bridwell did against opposing teams each pass through the lineup:
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com (click to enlarge)
It is an established fact that most pitchers fare worse each time they see an opposing lineup in a game, and Bridwell displayed that in 2017 to an extreme extent. More interestingly, check out his SO/BB rate and his K% (21.1% when taking his total strikeouts divided by total plate appearances) during his first time through the order. Both figures are significantly better than his overall numbers and at any other pass through an opposing batting order. The Parker Bridwell that aired it out the first time through an order was a worthwhile addition to a championship caliber pitching staff. Based on his production in his best season to-date, Bridwell would be best utilized in outings shorter than 4 innings.
Additionally, while 2018 was a train wreck for Bridwell, he does have a few factors in his favor. For one, while he struggled with injuries (namely surgery that removed lose bodies from a balky pitching elbow and a PRP injection to aid healing), Bridwell was able to return to the majors in September and displayed similar velocity to what he displayed in 2017. With a full, normal offseason available to him, there is no reason to expect Bridwell to come to Spring Training with anything less than his stuff from 2017. Secondly, 2018 will be Bridwell’s age-27 season, so assuming the elbow woes are behind him, he is still young enough to continue to improve with coaching from the Yankee staff.
At worst, Bridwell is capable of competing with AJ Cole for the role of long reliever who pitches more than most fans would appreciate. At best, I think that Bridwell is capable of pitching for 3+ innings in tandem with any number of young Yankee arms in the fifth rotation slot to provide significant value for a relatively cheap price. Picking up Bridwell could prove to be a high-return, low-cost move for the Yankees.