Brad Hand

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Bradley Richard Hand

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Biographical Information[edit]

Brad Hand was charged with a loss in spite of pitching extremely well in his major league debut for the Florida Marlins on June 7, 2011. Facing the Atlanta Braves, he gave up only one hit and one walk over six innings, while striking out six, but the only hit was a solo home run by Alex Gonzalez and his teammates failed to score for him, saddling him with the 1-0 loss. The last time a pitcher had lost his debut in spite of allowing only one hit in six or more innings was on May 19, 1971, when Mike Thompson of the Washington Senators lost to the Baltimore Orioles in spite of allowing only one hit in seven innings.

Hand was chosen by the Marlins in the second round of the 2008 amateur draft out of high school and signed by scout Bob Oldis. Hand had some consistently solid ERAs in the minors before reaching the big leagues. He went 3-2, 2.64 in 12 games between the GCL Marlins and Jamestown Jammers in 2008, then, in his only poor year, was 7-13, 4.86 after making the jump to the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League in 2009, when he was one of the youngest players in the circuit. He spend 2010 between the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Florida State League, where he was 8-8, 3.33 in 26 starts, and the Jacksonville Suns of the Southern League, where he won his only start by giving up 2 runs over 6 innings. He continued to pitch well at Jacksonville early in 2011, earning the call to the Marlins in early June: in 11 starts, he was 7-1, 3.53. He had also posted good strikeout numbers in the minors, with 122 Ks in 2009 and 138 in 2010, slightly below one per inning pitched. Hand ended up going 1-8, 4.20 in 12 starts for Florida, his only win coming on July 7th when he pitched 7 scoreless innings to beat the Houston Astros, 5-0.

Hand spent the bulk of the 2012 and 2013 seasons in the minors, making only a few appearances in the majors during the period. In 2012, he went 11-7, 4.00 in 27 starts for the New Orleans Zephyrs and was charged with a 7-4 loss to the Washington Nationals in his only big league appearance, on August 3rd. The following year, he was limited to 15 starts in New Orleans, going 3-5, 3.42, and also made a couple of rehabilitation starts with the GCL Marlins. At the major league level, he was the starter in 2 of his 7 appearances, but his lone win came in a relief outing. He was 1-1, 3.05 for the now Miami Marlins, allowing only 13 hits in 20 2/3 innings. He made the Marlins' staff out of spring training in 2014 and was mainly used as a reliever in the early going. However, he had a 6.23 ERA on May 23rd when he was sent down to the minors. He did record his first career save on April 4th, pitching 3 scoreless and hitless innings in completing an 8-2 win over the San Diego Padres. The Marlins decided at that point to return him to a starting role, and he made a couple of starts with Jupiter and four with New Orleans before returning to Miami as a starter in early July. On July 20th, he won for the first time in the role since 2011 when he pitched 7 innings, allowing only 2 runs, to defeat the San Francisco Giants and the red-hot Tim Lincecum, 3-2. He ended the year with a record of 3-8, 4.38 in 32 games, including 16 starts and pitching 111 innings. He was against used as a swingman in 2015, making 12 starts in 38 appearances and finishing the year at 4-7, 5.30 while pitching 93 1/3 innings.

At the start of the 2016 season, he was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres, which turned out to be a great move for his career. The Padres moved him to the bullpen full time, and he ended up leading the National League with 82 appearances as a set-up man for closers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Maurer. He went 4-4, 2.92, with 1 save and 111 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings while allowing only 63 hits. He registered his first two saves of the 2017 season on consecutive nights on May 24-25, both against the New York Mets. Both games involved escaping from self-created jams in the 9th inning. He was given the opportunity to close out games following a rough start to the season by Maurer, whose ERA was 6.63 at that point. Those were his only two saves of the first half, but he was still named to the 2017 All-Star Game as the Padres' sole representative. From June 10th to August 10th, Hand had a streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings before Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds connected off him for a grand slam. It had been widely rumored that he would be sent to another team at the trading deadline, but the date came and went and he was still with the Padres. He had become the team's closer for good on July 23rd and recorded saves in 9 of his first 10 save opportunities from that point forward, his only slip-up coming in the game in which Gennett had tagged him for a grand slam. He finished the season at 3-4, 2.16 in 72 games, with21 saves and 104 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

Not only did the Padres not trade Hand as he emerged as an All-Star, but on January 13, 2018 they signed him to a three-year contract extension worth $19.75 million, designating him as their closer going forward. On April 20th, he combined with Tyson Ross for a one-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ross was working on a no-hitter - something which no Padres pitcher had ever done - until two outs in the bottom of the 8th, but gave up a game-tying double to Christian Walker on a ball mis-judged by CF Franchy Cordero. That ended Ross's evening, and Hand recorded the final four outs without allowing any other hit, and was gifted a 4-1 win when the Padres scored three runs in the top of the 9th. He was again the Padres' sole representative at the 2018 All-Star Game and retired all three batters he faced as his name was once again at the center of various trade rumors. Two days later, on July 19th, he was indeed traded, going to the Cleveland Indians along with Adam Cimber in return for top prospect C Francisco Mejia. He finished the year by pitching 28 games for Cleveland, racking up another 8 saves while putting up an ERA of 2.28 Overall on the year, he was 2-5, 2.75 with 32 saves in 69 games. He got to pitch in the postseason for the first time that year, but results weren't great as he gave up 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings as the Indians lost to the Houston Astros in the Division Series.

In 2019, Hand spent the season as the Indians' closer and made it to the All-Star Game for the third straight year, going 6-4, 3.30 with 34 saves in 60 games. He struck out 84 batters in 57 1/3 innings, but the Indians missed the postseason. This was followed by an abbreviated season in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic slashed the year to just 60 games. Hand managed to lead the American League and the majors as a whole in saves, nonetheless, with 16, as well as an AL-leading 21 games finished. In 23 outings, he pitched 22 innings, struck out 29 against just 4 walks, and finished at 2-1, 2.05. But again, his postseason experience was less than stellar as in his sole outing of the Wild Card Series against the New York Yankees, he gave up another 2 runs in just two-thirds of an inning and the Indians made an early exit. He became a free agent after the season, and in the complicated market for players was only able to secure a one-year deal, signed with the Washington Nationals on January 24, 2021, for a salary of $10.5 million. He pitched 41 games for the Nats, going 5-5, 3.59 with 21 saves. His strikeout rate was still good, with 42 Ks in 42 2/3 innings, and he gave up just 31 hits, but his 18 walks were a lot for a closer. On July 29th, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for C Riley Adams. However, his stay with Toronto was brief and unhappy, as he put up a 7.27 ERA in 11 games. He was designated for assignment on August 31st.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time All-Star (2017-2019)
  • NL Games Pitched Leader (2016)
  • AL Saves Leader (2020)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 2 (2018 & 2019)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Matt Kelly: "Is this former lights-out reliever worth a shot? Lefty was elite in 2020, but are there warning signs moving forward?",, November 21, 2020. [1]
  • Gabe Lacques: "All-Stars like Pat Neshek know their next trip is to the trade block", USA Today Sports, July 12, 2017. [2]

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