The Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs swapped undesired contracts on Friday, as the M’s acquired OF/DH Milton Bradley for RHP Carlos Silva. Bradley is owed a combined $21M for the 2010-2011 seasons, while Silva is set to rake in $25M ($11.5M each in 2010 and 2011, plus a $2M buyout on a $12M mutual option for 2012). Apparently, Seattle will kick in $9M, saving Chicago $5M in the transaction.
(salary figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.)
Silva (he of a career 4.48 xFIP and a recent rotator cuff injury) isn’t of much concern to fantasy owners. But what’s left of Milton Bradley’s game? Let’s try to find out.
Bradley, of course, had a turbulent tenure on the North Side. He didn’t perform up to expectations in 2009, though he’s probably not responsible for global warming, swine flu and the financial collapse, as some Chicago columnists would have you believe.
The switch-hitter has long been a quality offensive player. His career wRC+ is 120, meaning Bradley’s wOBA in the majors is 20 percent better than average, once we account for park and league factors. Milton was an absolute machine in 2007 and 2008, posting wRC+ figures of 155 and 160, respectively. 2008 was the best year of his career, as Bradley set personal bests in home runs (22), Isolated Power (.242) and walk rate (16.2%). It was also just the second time in his career that he topped the 500 PA mark.
While Bradley annihilated pitchers in Arlington, we shouldn’t have expected a repeat of his monstrous ’08 campaign. His BABIP was an absurd .396, highest among all hitters. Milton’s Expected BABIP, by contrast, was .334. Bradley’s 2007-2008 power outburst was also well above his established level: his combined ISO over those two seasons was .241, compared to .170 from 2004-2006.
In a “down” 2009 season, Bradley was still above average with the bat (108 wRC+). He remained extremely patient at the plate (14.4 BB%). His pop, however, got lost at the airport terminal:
Milton’s ISO dipped to .140, his lowest mark since a 2001 season split between Les Expos and the Indians. During his 2007-2008 power surge, Bradley hit ground balls 40.4% of the time, while putting the ball in the air 37 percent. In ’09, his groundball rate rose to about 47 percent, while his fly ball rate fell to 33.3 percent.
During his banner ’08 season, Bradley had a humongous batting average on ground balls (remember that MLB-leading BABIP?) In ’09, not so much:
Bradley’s Batting Average on Ground Balls
Though Bradley was able-bodied enough to take 473 trips to the plate in 2009, he was rarely healthy. He battled quad, groin, hamstring, hip and knee ailments. Milton’s propensity to get dinged up was exacerbated by the lack of the DH. All of those bumps and bruises have taken a toll on Bradley’s wheels:
Bradley’s Speed Score, 2005-2009
Back in the AL, Bradley will likely patrol left field, while getting to rest his achy knees at least occasionally at DH. What can we expect out of Milton in 2010? CHONE projects a .369 wOBA, while Bill James forecasts a .365 wOBA. Thus far, the Fans call for a .373 wOBA.
Granted, Safeco Field is not a hitter’s haven by any means. According to the 2010 Bill James Handbook, Safeco depressed run scoring by 6 percent compared to a neutral ball park from 2007-2009. He’s not going to a great environment to get his power stroke back (95 HR park factor for lefty batters, 91 for righty hitters).
Still, Bradley (32 in April) has superb on-base skills. With a mild bounce back in the power category (not to his ’07-08 glory days, but around his career .172 ISO), he could be a pretty nice pickup for the Mariners and fantasy players.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.