Mets Reliever Greg Burke Brings Back Memories of Chad Bradford

By Matt Musico

While keeping up-to-date on all the related Mets news and rumors over the weekend, I couldn’t help but just stare at the picture Adam Rubin posted on Mets Blog for ESPN New York. He caught Greg Burke in mid-pitch during a bullpen session, and although some say he throws sidearm, he’s more of a submarine pitcher, which immediately makes me think of Chad Bradford.

Due to the popularity of Moneyball (the book and movie), the first thought I have of Bradford is him making a splash as the most reliable reliever for the 2002 Oakland Athletics. However, the second thought I have is how effective he was coming out of the bullpen for Willie Randolph in 2006 for the NL East champion Mets.

February 14, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets catcher John Buck (60) is watched by Manager Terry Collins during spring training at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The signing of Burke went under the radar for the most part, but we’ve already heard both Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins say great things about the right-hander, only a week into camp. He was signed by the Mets to a minor league deal with an invite to Big League camp five days after he became a free agent, and was held in such high regard that he was moved to the 40-man roster to be protected in the Rule 5 draft.

In case you can’t remember how great Bradford was for the Mets in ’06, here are some of his stats: 4-2 record, 2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 62 IP (70 appearances). He primarliy faced right-handed hitters during his one year in Flushing, but he showed the ability to get everybody out, as opposing batters hit .254/.290/.328 while he put together a nice 3.46 K/BB rate. He was mostly used as a situational kind of pitcher, with 54 of his 70 appearances coming in either the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, and only throwing 46 innings in those games. It’s obvious his submarine-style of tossing from the mound was seen by the Mets coaching staff as a huge advantage for a short period of time, and it’s something I expect Collins and Dan Warthen to use often in 2013 with Burke.

Without a fastball that blows others away, Burke has to depend on his secondary pitches and style of delivery to be successful against opposing hitters. The goal of any pitcher is to disrupt the timing of their opponent, and Burke could be the ultimate weapon when it comes to accomplishing that objective throughout the course of a game. Unlike Bradford, he may be called upon to face more hitters in any given appearance (64.2 IP in 44 appearances in ’12), but bringing him in to face hitters after six or seven innings of Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum, Dillon Gee, or Johan Santana would throw off a hitter’s timing with the ball coming out of a completely different arm slot, changing a their eye level. This is an important tactic, whether it’s with the ball itself, or a pitcher’s arm angle. Could you imagine the reaction he’d get from hitters coming in after one of the above starters, and before hard-throwers like Josh Edgin or Bobby Parnell in the following innings?

Burke had a solid year in Double-A and Triple-A for the Orioles organization, and he continued his dominance in Winter Ball, setting up the 30-year-old to finally break out in the Majors Leagues for the 2013 season, and he could be X-factor Collins is looking for in his ‘pen. The Mets relief corp hasn’t been a strength of this team since ’06, as Bradford hasn’t been with the team since they went to the playoffs. Is that a coincidence? It could be, but the presence of a pitcher with the ability to throw from a drastically different arm angle shouldn’t be overlooked.

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