Comparing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jackie Bradley in 2014


The season is over for Jackie Bradley and Jacoby Ellsbury. Neither will enjoy the extended limelight since both are on teams that clearly disappointed this season.

Ellsbury can sit back and relax on his yearly $23M or so stipend that the New York Yankees so generously bestowed upon him. Bradley can reflect on a season that made even bitter disappointment seem like a positive.

At the beginning and mid-point of the season, I wrote an articles on how both players will be compared, probably for their entire careers. That is inevitable in the Boston – New York baseball tong war.

Bradley was on the path to replace Ellsbury and despite front office doubts, was the heir apparent until he proved otherwise. Bradley did just that – proved otherwise. How bad was it for JBJ? Grady Sizemore, who had not played in two seasons, beat Bradley out for the starting slot.

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For Red Sox fans, the only redeeming feature with the Bradley performance was his “great defense,” which was similar to when a friend sets you up with a date that has a “great personality.” Bradley’s shelf life in Boston is just about over and he’ll be on the baseball recalled product list.

Ellsbury is another story. I’d have loved to see Boston re-sign Ellsbury. At $100+M or so? No problem. Go for it. One of the most talented and dynamic players to root around that Fenway outfield for decades. A true catalyst on the base paths who pressures the opposition relentlessly. Then I saw the numbers.

New York overpaid and they overpaid simply because they can. You check Ellsbury’s numbers and they are like drinking luke warm beer. Jake’s batting average was a full-season low for his career. No stolen base title, despite being on a team that is parsimonious with runs but not money.

Then come the power numbers. This observer had Ellsbury pegged for a nice upper 20s in home runs. But even his road home run figures exceeded home totals – so much for that short porch.

Where Bradley makes his move in any comparison is the glove and arm work. Bradley is firmly entrenched in the top slot for the AL centerfielders in fielding. Not even close. Bradley’s UZR reflects a thing of defensive beauty while Jake’s barely nudges into the positive column.

But the result for 2014 is a solid win for Ellsbury in comparison. Ellsbury may have been a very minor disappointment or just neutral but Bradley has been a failure of a magnitude that few would have imagined.

The comparisons will continue in 2015, only Bradley may be in Miami, Arizona or even Pawtucket.