Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 season for the Orioles has been the success of Kyle Bradish. To this point int he season, he’s posted a 3.01 ERA with a 3.32 FIP and 3.71 xERA alongside a 25% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate (both better than MLB average) across 158.1 innings.

And even better, if you look at Bradish’s performance since June, he looks even more like an ace, posting a 2.67 ERA with a 3.00 FIP and a 27.3% strikeout rate.

All of that is a far cry from his 2022 where he posted a pretty miserable 4.90 ERA with a 4.46 FIP, and 4.12 xERA over 117.2 innings. So what happened this year that changed everything? Was it all luck, or did something happen?

What Kyle Bradish changed this year

One of the first things I do whenever a pitcher starts having a lot of success seemingly out of nowhere is check and see if they’ve made some changes to their repertoire and approach. And guess what? That’s exactly what Kyle Bradish did this year, and it’s worked wonders.

Last year, Bradish primarily through his four-seam fastball (though some would argue his four-seamer is more of a cutter given the movement on it, but whatever you want to call it). He threw that pitch 44.5% of the time followed by his slider at 29.9%, his curveball at 12.8%, his changeup at 8.9%, and his sinker at 3.9%.

Cut to this year and that repertoire looks quite different. Now, his most-thrown pitch is his slider, which he throws 31.2% of the time, followed by his four-seamer at 22.7%, his sinker at 20.3%, curveball at 17.3%, and changeup at 8.4%.

And I absolutely love that. I have long been a proponent of throwing breaking balls and off-speed pitches differently than traditional baseball wisdom suggests. Traditionally you always “establish your fastball” and make that your most-thrown pitch while all of your other pitches play off of it.

Bradish did that last year, and guess what? His fastball got knocked around to the tune of a .320 AVG and .410 wOBA against. If you throw a bad pitch over and over and over again, guess what’s going to happen? Major Leaguers are going to take advantage of that and they’re going to hit that pitch hard, and that’s what happened to Bradish last year.

So what can a pitcher do instead? He can pitch backwards, or in other words, he can throw his breaking ball or off-speed pitch more than he throws his fastball. It’s worked for a whole host of major leaguers and, surprise surprise, it’s worked for Bradish too.

Now Bradish throws his slider more than any other pitch, and the results have been pretty impressive: a .177 AVG against, a .215 wOBA against, a 33.8% chase rate, an 18.5% swinging-strike rate, and a 30.7% CSW.

I also love where he locates it:

Right on the corner, gloveside, so it’s breaking off the plate for righties or it’s a nasty backfoot slider for lefties. And to locate it right there on the corner so consistently, it’s beautiful.

And what’s better is how well it works in concert with his sinker, which he now locates mostly armside, making it so you’ve got a slider or a sinker coming down the tunnel and one breaks armside while the other breaks gloveside and good luck guessing which is going where.

Not only is the location great, but on top of that, the difference between the observed and actual spin on Bradish’s sinker and slider are noticeably different:

The basic, simple version of what you see on that graph is, from the batter’s perspective, Bradish’s sinker and slider (and his four-seamer too) don’t do what their observed spin suggests they would do, meaning they’re likely very confusing for hitters. Which is how you end up making Major Leaguers look stupid like this.

Bradish hasn’t totally abandoned his four-seamer though, like I said, it’s his second most-thrown pitch (though it’s nearly an even split between that and his sinker), and it works well as part of his approach against lefties. Bradish often throws the fastball high and gloveside, which works well against lefties as it keeps the ball on the outside.

Unfortunately though, the fastball is still getting hit pretty hard, with a .367 AVG against anda  .454 wOBA against, and personally, I’d prefer to see him go with the sinker a bit more and reserve the fastball for when he really needs it.

And of course, we don’t want to forget about the curveball! Bradish doesn’t throw it a ton, but it’s worked well when he’s thrown it. He mostly locates it down and middle and it’s produced a rock solid .149 AVG against, .157 wOBA against, a 42% chase rate, 18.3% swinging-strike rate, and a 33.6% CSW.

So let’s review: Bradish this year has completely overhauled his repertoire, making his slider his most-thrown pitch followed by an even mix between his four-seamer and sinker, and adding in his curveball as another great breaking pitch and his changeup whenever he needs to toss one in.

It’s been working great, I personally love the approach, and I think if he keeps it up, all of this is going to keep working. Like I said earlier, I’d prefer to see him throw his four-seamer a little less and lean on the sinker a bit more, as it’s definitely the better pitch. 

But honestly, I can’t really complain about what Bradish is doing at all. What he’s doing is legit, and I don’t see any reason he can’t keep it up.

Ben Palmer
Ben Palmer

Ben Palmer has lived in Maryland his whole life and currently spends his days working as a health care journalist. He also previously wrote for and was a site expert for the FanSided blog The Baltimore Wire and currently works as managing editor at Pitcher List where he writes about fantasy baseball.