Chad Bradford: Moneyball Pitcher Proves His Value

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Who is Chad Bradford in Moneyball? Was Chad Bradford, Oakland A’s pitcher, a star?

Chad Bradford in Moneyball is a submarine pitcher who Billy Beane recruits as a part of a new framework of pitching stats. Chad Bradford’s stats don’t boast power or speed, but Chad Bradford is exactly the type of pitcher the Oakland A’s are looking for.

Rethinking Pitching

The A’s apply their sabermetric approach to finding pitchers as well as hitters. Instead of valuing pitching velocity for its own sake, Beane and the A’s believe that pitchers ought to be judged solely on their success in making outs, preventing runs from being scored against the team, and contributing to the team’s positive run differential. 

Around this time, a new method has been created to better evaluate pitchers—defense-independent pitching statistics (DIPS). DIPS eschews measurements like hits and earned runs against, as they depend too much on fielding to be of much use in judging a pitcher’s performance. Instead, DIPS rates pitchers mainly on the basis of walks, home runs, and strikeouts, aspects of the game for which the pitcher was solely responsible. One of the pitchers who stands out is Chad Bradford in Moneyball.

Chad Bradford: Sidearm Pitcher

Chad Bradford in Moneyball is one pitcher who excels in the DIPS categories. Despite his unusual throwing style, he is a remarkably talented pitcher, one of the best on the Oakland A’s staff and one of the best relief pitchers in the major leagues. Chad Bradford’s stats reflect his effectiveness. And at a meager $237,000, he is a steal. Like nearly all the other A’s pitchers, he has been overlooked or written off by the other teams, as someone who could never succeed in the major leagues. Yet he is a key part of the A’s pitching staff—the best in baseball. They’re seeing something that the rest of the league isn’t—and at a fraction of the price.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Chad Bradford in Moneyball barely makes his high school baseball team. The major leagues seem like a pipe dream for him. During his high school pitching days, Bradford’s coach teaches him to throw sidearm, a throwing style in which the baseball is released from the pitcher’s hand just above the ground, with the torso bent at a nearly horizontal axis. Although highly unusual (and initially uncomfortable), Bradford masters the style and sees that it is effective in striking batters out. 

After he fails to receive an offer from any of the Division I schools, Bradford attends a local community college, where he joins the baseball team. While there, a scout from the Chicago White Sox takes notice of him, impressed by how naturally Chad Bradford throws sidearm. To Bradford’s shock, he is taken by the White Sox in the 34th round of the 1994 draft.

Over the next few years, Chad Bradford in Moneyball works his way up through the White Sox organization to their Triple-A affiliate in Calgary. He is earning a pittance (he needs to take a side job as a forklift operator just to scratch out a living) but is living his dream by playing professional baseball and has blossomed into an exceptional pitcher by this time. In 1998 in Calgary, he gives up only three home runs in 51 innings pitched, with an earned run average of just 1.94. That same year, he is, at last, called up to the big leagues by the White Sox, where he turns in a similar dominant performance.

But the White Sox never really believe in Chad Bradford in Moneyball, attributing his success to mere luck. They don’t believe someone with such a bizarre style can succeed long-term in the majors. He just doesn’t look like a pitching ace. They never assign him a full-time spot on the Chicago pitching staff. But Bradford’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed by Billy Beane, who acquires him from the White Sox before the 2001 season for nothing more than a minor league catcher. Billy has stolen another player out from under the nose of a rival GM, and Chad Bradford is on the Oakland A’s.

Chad Bradford in Moneyball is a unique pick by Billy Beane that show’s Beane’s ability to look at stats over anything else. While other teams overlooked or dismissed Chad Bradford’s stats as luck, it’s clear that Chad Bradford’s Oakland A’s management believes in him, and he proves his value.

Chad Bradford: Moneyball Pitcher Proves His Value

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  • How Billy Beane first flamed out as a baseball player before becoming a general manager
  • The unconventional methods the Athletics used to recruit undervalued players
  • How Sabermetrics influences American baseball today

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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