Kyle Bradish opened the 2023 season as the No. 4 starter in the Orioles’ five-man rotation. He finished the game as the No. 4 starter in the entire American League.
In his second season in the major leagues, Bradish placed fourth in voting for the AL Cy Young Award, which is awarded annually to the best pitcher in the league. New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, the only qualified AL starter to allow a lower batting average than Bradish, received all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for won his first career Cy Young Award, the BBWAA announced Wednesday, with San Diego Padres left-hander Blake Snell winning the National League.
Bradish, a 27-year-old right-hander, is the first Orioles starter to appear on multiple BBWAA ballots since Hall of Famer Mike Mussina finished second in 1999. With just one third-place vote in 2007 , Erik Bedard tied for fifth, while closer Zack Britton also came in fourth in 2016. An Oriole hasn’t won this award since Steve Stone in 1980.
The voting results validated Bradish’s status not only as the Orioles’ best starter, but also as one of the best in the AL. With a 2.83 ERA, Bradish became Baltimore’s first qualified starter to post a ERA below 3.00 since Mussina in 1992. That figure also ranked third in the AL behind Cole and the Twins right-hander of Minnesota, Sonny Gray, who finished second in voting as a former Orioles starter. Kevin Gausman, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, placed third. Bradish’s 17 outings of at least six innings with fewer than three runs allowed were behind Cole.
Bradish appeared on 19 ballots with six votes for third place, eight for fourth place and five for fifth. He finished well behind Gausman for third place in voting, preventing the Orioles from having three finalists for the BBWAA awards; Baltimore infielder Gunnar Henderson was named AL Rookie of the Year on Monday, while Brandon Hyde won AL Manager of the Year a day later. The BBWAA’s final honor, each league’s Most Valuable Player, will be announced Thursday.
One of four minor league right-handers the Orioles acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for starter Dylan Bundy in December 2019, Bradish made his major league debut for Baltimore in May 2022. In 10 starts before appearing on On the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, Bradish had a 7.38 ERA. But the recovery period allowed him to reset mentally and physically. After his return, he posted a 3.28 ERA over 13 starts, a stretch during which he also began throwing to the other side of the rubber and added a sinker to his repertoire.
The success of these changes, along with the improved command he exhibited, continued through 2023. Starting in Baltimore’s fourth game of the season, he struck out seven batters when a comebacker hit his right foot , causing a brief stint on the injured list. He returned with six scoreless innings, but his next nine outings were mixed, leaving him with a 4.25 ERA as of mid-June. From then on, he had a 2.18 ERA in 19 starts; sound 2.34 mark after the All-Star break narrowly passed Cole for the best second-half ERA of any major league starter.
This performance made Bradish the obvious choice to be the Orioles’ Game 1 starter in their AL Division Series matchup with the Texas Rangers. Although the Rangers won the game 3-2, en route to sweeping Baltimore and ultimately winning the World Series, Bradish impressed during his 4 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, the first Orioles pitcher to reach that total in a playoff match since Mussina. in 1997.
Orioles closer Felix Bautista, who at times this season was considered a dark horse Cy Young candidate, received three fifth-place votes as the only reliever to land on multiple ballots. Before undergoing a season-ending Tommy John elbow reconstruction that will also force him to miss 2024, Bautista had a 1.48 ERA and 33 saves with a 46.4% strikeout rate, sixth highest for a qualified reliever in major league history.
Replacing Bautista in the back of the bullpen and strengthening the rotation are among the Orioles’ offseason priorities, with Gray and Snell, now free agents, among the starting upgrades available. But for now, Bradish is on pace to become Baltimore’s youngest Opening Day starter since Bundy in 2018, which would be a fitting honor for a pitcher who has established himself among the AL’s best .