The Bradley Comments

While speaking to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, Milton Bradley, now of the Chicago Cubs, made a couple noteworthy comments regarding not only his time as a member of the Texas Rangers but also his theory on statistics and playing time. Before adding any personal opinions or commentary, here are the quotes of interest:

“My agent was saying that Jon Daniels was telling him, ‘There are days when he doesn’t want to play because of his health.’ Well, you can get a healthy guy to go out there and play 162 games, but he won’t do what I did in 120.”

“When you’re on one-year deals constantly, you’ve got to put up as good numbers as you can. When you have days where you’re not feeling like you can contribute, you’re not going to go out there, because you’re not going to want your numbers to suck. So, if you’re in a situation like I am now, if they want me to go out there when I’m feeling a little banged up, I’ve got no problem doing that because they’ve made the commitment to me.”

Let’s go one at a time, starting with the top quote. Bradley seems to be bitter that the Texas Rangers showed little interest in retaining his services beyond the 2008 season, and lost his temper upon hearing the remarks of his general manager. The line about his 120 games outperforming 162 of others is incredibly cocky but it also reeks of truth.

If you take the 126 games Bradley played in 2008, which produced a win value of +4.5, and slotted in the -0.3 win value that comes from prorating Jeff Francoeur‘s season to 36 games, the resulting +4.2 wins still exceeds the wins added totals of both Josh Hamilton (156 g) and Ryan Braun (151 g). I always find it humorous that people are criticized for pointing out something similar to Bradley’s self-assessment, especially if it is true.

Perhaps the cockiness overwhelmingly turns off those offering the critiques, but why is it if a player makes a comment like that it becomes blasphemous, yet if I point it out in an article it gets lauded as interesting? Of course a difference exists in the routes taken by both myself and Bradley in offering up the information, but because Bradley presented his case without humility he is very likely to get panned by the media and the casual fan.

Now, Bradley’s second quote does not evoke the same sort of defensive response, because it comes off as largely hypocritical. He is essentially claiming that he took days off when under 100% in order to preserve statistics. This preservation would, in theory, lead to lucrative contracts via free agency. I’m definitely a proponent of players taking days off when hurt because an injured player is more likely to hurt his team than help, but front offices might actually interpret his actions differently, choosing not to commit based on an attitude that puts statistical preservation above the team.

I’m not saying he is right or wrong, because these comments could easily sway to either side. Milton failed to mention that his proneness to injuries also turns teams off from committing, as do his perceived attitude problems. Sitting out of games intentionally for the sake of keeping your numbers high is equivalent to getting a triple-double in basketball by purposely missing your own shot to grab a rebound. If Bradley needed some time off to heal, then by all means he should because, with health, he is an incredibly talented player and it would benefit his employers to keep him on the field as often as possible.

The Cubs have made a commitment to Bradley, but statistical preservation issues aside, he just is not very likely to be on the field all too often given his track record and the fact that the senior circuit will require his presence in the field. Bradley is, in my eyes, the most talented player of the last ten years who truly deserves to sign one-year deals each season.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

17 Responses to “The Bradley Comments”

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  1. Nice points. I’ve been saying the same thing about Bradley’s production in limited playing time, although not as coherently.

    My favorite example is actually Bradley’s 2007 season, in which he only played in61 games… and still put put 2.4 WAR. That’s right, he was an above average player in just over one-third of a season.

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  2. Joe says:

    Very fair analysis. It will be very interesting to see how his body holds up playing the field in the NL.

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  3. NCRF says:

    A fair and well reasoned analysis. The difference between you saying it and MB saying it is that I know you did the statistical analysis to back up what you say, while MB just sounds cocky (even if he is correct).

    Also, if I were the cubs, I would be worried about him giving 100% in the third year of his contract, since he will essentially be in the same position of needing to protect his statistics to get he next contract. Its possible (likely?) that many athletes do exactly this (which explains the jump in performance in contract year); its just disturbing to actually hear one say it out loud.

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    • tyger says:

      Actually, aren’t most “jump[s] in performance” typically in counting stats, affected most by players actually playing more, trying to rack up numbers? Basically, that most players fight through minor injuries in contract years, playing more. At least, that’s what I remember reading.

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  4. Schteeve says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pro athletes being cocky. I think the rules are applied unfairly to baseball players. If a football player made the same kind of comment, he’d be a fixture on every sports talk show. Baseball players are supposed to be more humble and aw shucks than any other athlete and I don’t get it.

    The Cubs are lucky to have Milton as long as he can stay healthy.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      Exactly my sentiments. In 2007, I prayed that the Phillies traded for Milton Bradley because his cockiness would have lit a spark under their butts. I like cocky players. I don’t want 25 of them on one team, but what’s wrong with a couple.

      Bradley likely didn’t do advanced WAR calculations like me to arrive at the same conclusion but he has to know that he played awesomely last year in 126 g.

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  5. hans says:

    “Sitting out of games intentionally for the sake of keeping your numbers high is equivalent to getting a triple-double in basketball by purposely missing your own shot to grab a rebound”

    Ah this reminds me of the great Ricky Davis, who in Lebron’s first season in the league (i believe, or possibly the year before) had shot errently on his own hoop to create a rebound near the end of a game to achieve a triple-double, on a terrible Cavs team.

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  6. t ball says:

    The problem is not Bradley only playing 120 games. It’s that there is a significant chance he will only play 20 games, or 0 games, or 40 games. Why in the hell should a team pay for three years of that? The Ranger got a $20M season for just over $5M, but there’s a very good chance he won’t total $20 altogether over the next 3 years. I don’t blame him for his stance, but I think the Cubs were foolish (especially with the FA market this winter) while the Rangers made the right move.

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  7. Roscoe says:

    What if Milton changed his sentence structure and said something to the effect of… “I want to give the best for my team, and considering my health there are some days that I feel I won’t be able to put up the production, and someone else may be better to plug into the lineup, and overall I will put up more production for my team if I play 120 healthy games, rather than play 160 that are in-between”.

    Now he said essentially the same thing, but the emphasis was placed on himself and not the team. Especially considering the fact that baseball is as individual a sport you can get while still belonging to a team, this just smacks of heirarchical hypocrisy.

    The nature of competition, especially economic competition, is subjugation, but its first implementation! Even fan graphs is in the business of doing this, we all are either rabid fantasy baseball players who want to get the value of the next breakout player without having to draft him until the later rounds, or baseball fans who want to be able to tell thier buddies who the next joeschmo will come out of nowhere to win the Cy Young. As bad and as intense as we get about that sometimes, Do you ever think what owners must do? What owner wouldn’t want to pay Milton Bradley 2 million dollars instead of 8 million? If you haven’t bought into the system, as Bradley seems not to, or sadly, or maybe fortunately it seems like he’s never been taught how to exist within it, can you see how a cognitive dissonance and a paranoia about being taken advantage of would occur?

    Again, I’m not sure I’m happy that Bradley hasn’t bought in or if I feel sad that he doesn’t know that all he has to do to get those contracts he wants is to satisfy the power structure already in place. Most people just know, when confronted with A, just say B and everything will be okay. This is why players like Milton Bradley and Manny, and to a small extent Ian Kennedy are my favorite players. They don’t sacrifice themselves for the system, whether they know it or not, they are contributing to the fabric, the story of humanity much more than any of the drones who will make more money than them.

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    • CH says:

      Well said.

      Bradley is actually a very intelligent guy, so I’m sure he “understands” the power structure and is enraged by it, but he encounters problems because he’s enraged by EVERYTHING. He doesn’t pick his battles, so after a while it sounds like he’s always crying wolf, and people become annoyed by him and ignore/ostracize him.

      If David Ortiz said “I want to give the best for my team, and considering my health…” like you suggest, most would buy it.

      Bradley doesn’t have that kind of equity built up with the public, however, so picking his battles would really help him immensely.

      I don’t think he’s a bad person, I don’t even think what he said was that awful, but he should have sat this one out.

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  8. MB21 says:

    the cubs only need about 60-70 games per season from Bradley for him to be worth the contract. It’s definitely a high risk deal, but odds are very likely he averages at least that many games over the next 3 years and if he plays in a lot more than that, it turns out to be one of the best contracts given out this offseason, if not the best.

    Bradley’s comments from time to time are going to rub people the wrong way, but it’s not his job to sugarcoat things. I think the media and fans have seemingly placed that task upon the players, but I like that Bradley seems to be more intelligent about value than many of the other players. He isn’t going to be well liked because he doesn’t give the nice interview the media wants, but all the Cubs need are about 180 games from him and they got $30 million worth of production. If they can somehow find a way to get 360 or 400 games from him, that’s an outstanding contract.

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    • Jason T says:

      This is well put. Sometimes fans and/or sportswriters put a little to much emphasis on being an ‘Everyday Eddie’. I’d rather have a player take some time off and play well, than play hurt. (see: Putz, JJ – second game of the ’08 season).

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