Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Remembering Brad Radke
No, he didn't die. I thought about changing the title to make it seem less eulogy-like, but I couldn't think of anything. He didn't die; instead, I found out today that this is Radke's first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame and given the other people on this year's ballot, he might actually have a shot...just kidding. I thought it would be fun to revisit Radke's career, first inning struggles and all.
Brad William Radke was drafted in the 8th round of the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft at the young age of 18. He was a product of Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL which also produced other Major Leaguers such as Lou Piniella, Al Lopez (HOF), Dave Madagan and Jason Michaels. Radke had early success in the Minors, throwing well in Rookie Ball and A-league ball before a promotion to AA towards the end of the '93 season. Radke spent all of the 1994 season at AA posting a very good 2.66 ERA in 186.1 innings - enough to turn some heads in the Twins front office.
Given that '94 was a strike-shortened season, the 1995 season started late and Radke was actually able to make the team out of Spring Training. He made his Major League debut on April 29th, a relief appearance in which he allowed 3 earned runs (4 runs overall) to the Baltimore Orioles in a game the Twins went on to lose 13-7. After that game, the rest of his appearances that year were as a starter and he managed to do OK considering he was on a team that lost 88 games that season (only 144 played that year). He won 11 games against 14 losses, gave up a league-high 32 homeruns, and threw 181 innings for the Twins...not bad for a 22-year-old rookie who's pro-career, to that point, had not extended past AA ball.
Even in that first year, Radke began to show a pattern which would plague him for his entire career - he had trouble getting out of the 1st and 2nd innings without giving up runs. In '95, his 1st inning ERA was 6.43, his 2nd inning ERA was 5.53 and after that, it settled in the low-4s. Though subsequent seasons were not nearly as terrible, the trend of early-inning struggles continued for most of Radke's career. He also gave up a TON of homeruns. He led the league in homeruns-allowed in both 1995 and 1996 and finished in the top 5 in that category 4 times during his career. For his career, he allowed 326 home-runs which ranks 35th all-time among MLB pitchers...this despite the fact that Radke had a relatively short 12-year career.
Brad Radke's career was not without highlights however. In 1997 he had a pretty lucky season that saw him win 20 games for the hometown club...especially impressive given the fact that the Twins lost almost 100 games that season. In that same year, he also won 12 consecutive games (consecutive starts), becoming only the 3rd pitcher since 1950 to do that (courtesy: wikipedia). Radke's career saddled the Twins transition from perennial loser to perennial contender perfectly; the team has 6 losing seasons and 6 winning seasons during his tenure as a Twin.
Radke was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame in 2009, the team's last season in the Metrodome. He the poster child for the pitching "mold" that the Twins have become famous for...low strikeout rate, low walk rate. Radke ranks 32nd all-time in BB/9IP ratio (min 1,000 IP), ranking ahead of other famously walk-stingy pitchers like Roy Halladay and Greg Maddux. Radke will, I think, always be fondly remembered by Twins fans. He was quiet, he wasn't a distraction, he was a work-horse and he was reliable - that's about as much as you can ask of any player. In a way, he was kind of a paradox - he possessed pin-point control, yet gave up a lot of home-runs. My personal favorite memory of Radke isn't exactly a good one (if your name is Brad Radke). My favorite player growing up, aside from Kirby Puckett who was done playing by the time I was 12 years old, was Ken Griffey Jr. I begged my dad to take me to see him when the Mariners were in town during the '99 season and in the game we saw, Radke started and gave back-to-back home-runs to Griffey and A-Rod in the 1st inning. Classic.