It’s Time To Say Goodbye To JBJ

The Red Sox invested $8.55 million dollars in their starting center fielder this season. They drafted Jackie Bradley, Jr. in the first round (40th overall) back in 2011. Although JBJ has been one of their better home-grown players, along with Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, his numbers to start this season should help explain why Boston’s hitting statistics rank in the bottom third of American League teams. Bradley is 9-for-64 this season (.141 batting average). He has struck out 21 times compared to 5 walks and has just 2 extra-base hits. Time has come to officially say goodbye to JBJ.

When we think of Jackie Bradley, Jr., we think of the best defensive center fielder inSay Goodbye baseball. Truth be told, Bradley has won just one Gold Glove, which came last year. Bradley has been the regular center fielder for the Sox since 2014, the year after the team won their eighth World Series championship. He took over for Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year/$153 million-dollar contract with the Yankees that offseason.

In the five seasons that Bradley has been manning center, the AL Gold Glove has been awarded to the likes of Adam Jones, Kevin Kiermaier twice, Byron Buxton, and Bradley, respectively. Bradley’s teammate Mookie Betts has won a Gold Glove in right field for three years running.

Bradley’s OPS numbers from 2014-’18 read like this: .531, .832, .835, .726, .717. He has averaged a .239 batting average over that span. His best season as a hitter came in 2016, when he started alongside Betts in the All-Star Game. That year, he posted career highs across the board: 156 games – 94 runs – 149 hits – 26 home runs – 87 RBI – .835 OPS – 271 total bases.

Compared to other top AL center fielders in 2016, Bradley finished second in RBI, third in runs, home runs, and WAR, and fourth in batting average. The following season, in 2017, he sank from third to seventh in runs and batting average. Also, individually speaking, his OPS dropped more than one-hundred points, he hit 9 less home runs, and his WAR dropped from 5.3 to 2.2. Last year, in 2018, Bradley saw his OPS drop again. His .234 batting average was his worst since his rookie year. Some might believe that downward trends like this should have authorized the Red Sox to say goodbye to JBJ some time ago.

Say Goodbye To JBJ: Always been a streaky hitter

A .926 OPS, 14 home runs, and 55 RBI in 2016’s first half are really what earned Bradley an All Star appearance in 2016. However, in the season’s second half, his numbers changed drastically. His OPS fell nearly two-hundred points (.728). He posted just 20 extra base hits after collecting 36 from April-July.

When looking at his overall career, JBJ is a .257 hitter at Fenway Park. His road batting average, however, sits at an ugly .216 clip. When facing right-handed pitchers, his career OPS of .734 warrants an average hitter. Against lefty’s his OPS drops to .664.

At this moment, tough to cut ties

Waiving or trading JBJ right now might not make the most sense, but sitting him more regularly would be smart. Betts has plenty of experience in center field. Benintendi is comfortably the everyday left fielder. Perhaps J.D. Martinez, the team’s DH, would entertain more starts in the outfield. Brock Holt, who is currently on the Injured List, has experience playing the outfield, as well as Steve Pearce.

The Red Sox have a plethora of talented hitters: Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis. The more manager Alex Cora can get this group in the lineup card, the more runs will cross the plate. With more talent (Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez) due back to the lineup in the impending future, the Red Sox should say goodbye to JBJ.

Benintendi, JBJ Suspected of Witchcraft After Thursday’s Game

God fearing people of Boston! Break out the pitch forks! Light your torches! Ban together! We have witches among us! In a clear display of their magical powers of witchcraft, Andrew Benintendi and JBJ defied logic, gravity, and probability Thursday night through their astonishing defensive plays. With Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr, aka, JBJ suspected of witchcraft, the Boston Red Sox’s adversaries should take heed and pray for deliverance from the devilry that is the Red Sox defensive outfield.

In the first inning JBJ caught Justin Upton’s line drive to deep center that wouldJBJ suspected surely have been at least a double. That’s when JBJ used his powers of witchcraft to transform the ball into a magnetic force that forcefully gravitated into his glove as he used the magic of flight to reach it.

In a dramatic display of acrobatics that only a witch could summon, Benintendi caught a 89.9 mph flyball in the eighth inning off the Angels’ David Fletcher. Normally such a catch wouldn’t summon any extra attention. However, Benintendi used his ability as a witch to fly and he caught the ball. Puritans sitting in Grandstand Section 32 (the alcohol-free zone) immediately suspected witchcraft. When pressed for clarification, the Puritans fled Fenway Park crying out for forgiveness for committing the sin of having fun. They fled back to Old Salem on horseback and reported their suspicions to Chief Magistrate William Stoughton, who once presided over the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Benintendi, JBJ Suspected of Witchcraft, May Stand Trial Before Salem Court

“Thy abundant displays of witchcraft clearly demonstrate the return of witchcraft to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” stated Chief Magistrate Stoughton. “It be witchcraft that afford them the power to make such catches.”

Chief Magistrate Stoughton added that a special tribunal would be called in Salem Village before the week end. Despite Benintendi and JBJ suspected of witchcraft, neither could be reached for comment.

Adversaries Should Take Heed, Witchcraft Is No Laughing Matter

There’s two ways for the Red Sox’s opponents to stave off Benintendi and JBJ ‘s spells. The first is to take a lock of Babe Ruth’s hair. Then tie it to Mookie Wilson’s bat. Finally, gripping the bat with Bob Gibson’s glove, slowly but firmly approach the two with the bat as they warm up before the game. If both cowl in fear the way a vampire does upon seeing a crucifix then you’ll know it’s working. The power of such a cacophony is the only thing that will break their spells. The safer and more sure way approach is for opposing players to just sit out the game.

The Boston Red Sox are taking on the New York Yankees this weekend. There they are battling a monstrous giant by the name of Aaron Judge. Will Judge’s giant statue be a match for Benintendi’s magic? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Yankee fans living in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be wise to arm themselves with garlic, horseshoes, and salt as a means of protecting themselves. If the Red Sox lose the series this weekend Benintendi and JBJ will fly around the Commonwealth on their Louisville Sluggers looking to feast on their souls!

Jackie Bradley Improving Offensively

Jackie Bradley improving offensively has been a very positive sign as the Boston Red Sox enter the second month of the 2016 season. Bradley has been susceptible to criticism surrounding his offensive game throughout his young career. In 2014, he hit below the Mendoza line, with a .198 batting average in 423 at bats. 2015 was a career year for Bradley, finishing with a .249 batting average. One typically wouldn’t consider that Jackie Bradley improvinga career season, but for Bradley, it certainly was. Coming into the 2016 season there were still question marks surrounding Bradley’s offensive production. Was his 2015 season just a fluke or was it his coming out party?

After the first month of the 2016 season, the answer to that question reflects the latter. In fact, he seems to be getting even better as he sees more at bats and his true coming out party may still be ahead. Bradley hit .272 in the first month of the year, including a clutch game tying double off the monster against Masahiro Tanaka this past weekend in a series that the Sox swept against the New York Yankees.

Jackie Bradley Improving: What’s next?

Bradley’s walk rate has been inconsistent. He has been above the major league average in walk rating two of the past three seasons and is below the major league average so far this season, walking just 6.5 percent of the time. Hitting out of the nine spot in the order, drawing walks is ultra important to set up lead off man Mookie Betts with a favorable position at the plate. If Bradley draws more walks, he will set up more run scoring opportunities for one of the game’s best young hitters in Betts. Betts provides more power than Bradley, offering some of the quickest hands in the game today. While Betts has shown more power than Bradley up to this point in their careers, last year’s interim manager and Red Sox bench coach, Torey Luvullo, believes Bradley can turn into a 20-30 homer guy at the big league level.

When interviewed by the Boston Globe’s Jason Mastrodonato last season, Luvollo said “What Jackie’s showing us right now tells me he can hit 20 to 30 home runs. Mookie’s right at 15 to 20. Rusney with a full season could hit 15 to 20, as well. For me, it’s about the production and their ability to produce runs and create runs. The home runs are a product of good swings, and they’re thrown, not hit — taking advantage of mistakes.” Those are some very high expectations for a player that hit just .198 two years ago. I see Bradley as a guy who will hit .270 with 15 homers and 70 RBI’s at his peak. Clearly the belief is there in the clubhouse for Bradley becoming a force at this level. Will he fulfill their belief? These next couple seasons will answer that. 

Still just 26 years of age, Bradley is entering his prime years as a baseball player. These improvements have been a welcoming sign for both the team and Bradley’s future as a major league player. The question with Bradley is no longer whether or not he can hit major league pitching, but rather how much better he can get at doing so. This year will be a big year for Bradley as he is eligible for arbitration next season. An impressive season will enable him to demand more money from the team in the off-season. Bradley has earned the respect defensively and it is time for fans to start respecting him offensively as well. However, don’t be expecting 30 homers from this guy anytime soon.

Relying Less on Analytics Will Benefit Players Like Bradley Jr.

John Henry’s recent comments about the team’s reliance of analytics came as a shock to many, especially since the team has employed Bill James since 2003, the father of saber metrics who was made famous by the book Moneyball and its subsequent film.
The Boston Sunday Globe quoted one scout who, after hearing Henry’s declaration said, “Finally, someone who realizes that human beings play the game, not numbers…” While in many cases analytics has proven to be a very useful tool that owners have used to build championship teams, focusing less on the numbers could bode well for players like Jackie Bradley Jr., whose own numbers do not capture his talent and potential.

Many saw Bradley Jr.’s performance in the 2014 and 2015 seasons as promising but inconsistent. But if you set his numbers aside for a minute, you see a 2014 Gold Glove nomination. In fact, Bradley Jr.’s defense led Red Sox great Bill Lee to say in August 2015 that he reminded him of Willie Mays from the waist down. That same month, Bradley Jr. became one of only eight players to accumulate five extra-base hits in one game. In a match against the Seattle Mariners, Bradley Jr. hit two home runs and three doubles in six at bats as the Red Sox won 22-10. So does Bradley Jr.’s 2015 .249 batting average represent his abilities? I think not. Now that the Red Sox are taking a step back from analytics, there will be opportunities for people to focus more on what qualities Bradley Jr. does posses that can’t be categorized using analytics. This step back will be good for other players like Brock Holt and Rusney Castillo, players whose true potential may be unfairly overshadowed by analytics.

Should We Toss Analytics Aside Altogether?

I’m not saying that analytics should be completely discarded. After all, it played a role in the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 after an eighty-six year drought. But focus on numbers, statistics, and projections has done a lot to drain the humanity and excitement out of the game. When I see Bradley Jr. take the field next season, I won’t be thinking about the previous season’s batting average, or what Bill James’ thinks his batting average will be. I’ll be thinking about whether I’ll be lucky enough to see Bradley Jr. make an outstanding defensive play.

Analytics remind me of a story about my time in graduate school. One of my professors told me that the best indication of how well a student will do in graduate school, is to see how well they actually do in graduate school. In other words grades, GPA, and test scores can only do so much to predict how someone will do. Seeing how they actually do in a graduate class is the true indicator of someone’s abilities. With that said, we should follow John Henry’s lead and step back from analytics so that we can focus more on what we see on the field, instead of what we read in a statistical analysis. After all, it’s possible that Bradley Jr.’s performance this upcoming season could blow the lid off any predictions anyone’s made using analytics.

Jackie Bradley Jr. Hitting Well in Pawtucket

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Although it is only seven games into the season, something seems a little bit different about PawSox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. this season— he is hitting well.
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Starting off this season in the Minors for the first time since 2012, the outfielder is swinging a hot bat, regardless of the sample size. To date, he has 35 at-bats on the year and has collected 13 hits (.371 average) with four doubles and a jackie bradley jr.walk. He leads the team in total bases with 17.

Sure, this is based off of a small sampling, but any signs of life from Bradley at the plate could pay off in a huge manner for the Red Sox this season. Defensively, he probably should have won the Gold Glove last year, but at the plate he had quite the slump in the summer months.
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With Rusney Castillo day to day, the right-handed Bradley—who hits lefty—could find himself with a huge advantage granted that the only thing Castillo has yet to do is play on an every day basis. If Bradley is able to keep stringing hits together like his early scouting reports indicated, he could leave the Boston Red Sox with some tough decisions to make.

The Red Sox will need to see more than eight games from Bradley before they call him up given that he is a lifetime .196 hitter in 164 big league games. If he continues to do what he is doing, or close to it for a month or so, and Castillo cannot keep up, then Bradley might just force his way up to Boston.
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Of course injuries could help Bradley’s case as a call-up as well, but it seems unlikely that they will call him up to do anything less than play on an everyday basis. After all, he still has a few more days before he turns 25.

Jackie Bradley Jr. In Pawtucket, But Not For Long

jackie bradley jrOn Monday, the Boston Red Sox made a tough decision and sent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to AAA Pawtucket. In response, they called-up rookie Mookie Betts. Although Bradley is now in the Minor Leagues, that is not where he belongs and he will not be there for long.

In 112 games for the Red Sox this year, Bradley has slashed .216/.288/.290 so far on the year. Also, 29.33% of his hits have been for extra bases while he has swiped eight bags on eight attempts. He is by far the best defensive outfielder in the league however, as he has yet to boot a ball in 927 innings in the outfield while he leads all of Major League Baseball in assists with 13 which is unheard of for a center fielder. Numbers like these in the field scream Gold Glove. Defense, of course, is not the reason why Bradley was sent down — it hardly ever is the reason why a player is demoted.
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The most logical answer of why Bradley was sent down is because of his bat. He recently overcame an 0-for-35 slump at the plate which seems to be the most likely cause of his demotion. Take out that stretch and he is hitting .228 which is not great, but much better than .216. Since then he was 5-for-16 at the plate in the past week good for a .313 average. Although that is a small sample size, it indicated that his bat was starting to come back around at least a little bit. Now he has the chance to continue his momentum at the plate in a low-pressure environment.
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Although the front office must not be too happy with the way he has been hitting lately, he is not out of the picture entirely. Most likely, he will be called back up to the big club on September 1st once rosters expand and include upwards of 40-men at the big league level although teams hardly ever go this high. Essentially, Bradley has about two weeks in the minors before he is back up playing center field for the Boston Red Sox.