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Parker Bridwell is the elephant in the room

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One of 2017’s biggest exclamation points... One of 2018’s biggest question marks.

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For every lackluster performance in 2017, there was an outstanding breakout. Blake Parker, JC Ramirez, and Martin Maldonado all contributed to varying degrees, and the team and fans alike are hoping that they can continue the success that kept the team in contention all year. However, one player’s output from last year stands out as prime regression material.

Parker Bridwell’s rise was an unanticipated yet welcome counter to the fiasco that was Nolasco. Across twenty starts and one relief appearance, he compiled a 3.64 ERA (first on the team by a considerable amount among players with at least 100 innings pitched), had a 10-3 record, and pulled off a particularly incredible July.

As Jeff Fletcher noted in September though, this was unlikely to say the least. The rookie had a glaring number attached to his name at the time that only worsened after Bridwell’s final games of the season. There’s no easy way to break it, so I’ll just drop it down here:

Parker Bridwell had 5.43 Strikeouts Per Nine Innings.

At the time of Jeff Fletcher’s article, Bridwell was ninth-lowest among starters with at least 100 innings in K/9. If we do include that one relief appearance and the last couple starts of the season, he ended in a tie with the mostly ineffective Matt Cain for fifth-lowest. In fact, the only pitcher below him in K/9 who was really productive was Andrew Cashner, who kept balls in the park at a considerably better rate than Bridwell.

It is no small wonder then that Parker managed to keep his FIP below a 5.00. He clocked in at a very below average 4.84 with an uninteresting 1.41 HR/9. His saving grace is his excellent walk rate. He was 18th among all pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched in BB/9 at a fantastic 2.23.

The first thing that an agent of Bridwell’s might be inclined to point to in his defense is the elite defense that the new-look Angels will be sporting next year. Even last year, he only allowed a .262 BABIP, which was surely helped by Andrelton Simmons and Co., right?

Unfortunately, he has not shown a propensity for inducing ground balls. His GB% was an ugly 38.1%, good for 22nd-lowest. By contrast, his fly ball rate of 40.7 was 26th-highest. The defense will only be able to bail him out so often.

We need to be honest with ourselves. Parker Bridwell is not Greg Maddux. He may have above average command and control, but he really needs to keep the stitches on the baseball and create some divots if he plans to get by on that alone. This past season he allowed a lot of medium-hit contact, but that could be subject to change when he gets scouted a bit more.

He was loved last season as much as the next guy, but now is probably the time to move him. Jaime Barria is right behind him and has basically the same skill set, but with a more positive history to back it up. Bridwell was acquired while his stock was low and could be a great piece to swap for a quality reliever while his value is at its highest.

There is always the possibility this piece could come back to bite me, and if he isn’t traded, I hope it does. But we all know it won’t.

OPTIMISTIC “Rick Is An Idiot” UPDATE:

Maybe he is Greg Maddux!