Jacki Bradley Jr. has rediscovered the swing that made him a No. 1 draft pick, rekindling the championship aspirations of Red Sox Nation.
Selected by the Boston Red Sox as the 40th overall selection in the first round of the 2011 draft, Jackie Bradley progressed through the minor league system at a meteoric pace, reaching the Majors in just two short years.
Unfortunately, upon his arrival on baseball’s biggest stage in 2013, Bradley endured severe struggles as a hitter. In Bradley’s first year with the Red Sox, he proved to be severely overmatched by major league pitching, as his prolonged swing resulted in the inability to both, catch up to a major league fastball, or generate any power upon contact.
As a result of his prodigious struggles, JBJ was demoted to the Red Sox’s AAA affiliate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on multiple occasions.
Somewhere along the line, while languishing in Pawtucket in 2015, a funny thing happened; JBJ shortened his stroke, closed his stance, and these alterations in his mechanics enabled him to be much shorter to the ball and to drive the baseball to all fields with significantly greater authority.
JBJ’s short career can be viewed as two antithetical periods whose statistical profiles could not be more dissonant. There exists the first period, prior to the mechanical adjustments to his swing, that began in April 2013 and ended in July 2015. In addition, there exists the second period, following the mechanical alterations to his swing, that began in August 2015 and is still going strong.
To best illustrate the gargantuan dissimilarities between the two periods that comprise Bradley’s career, the provision of statistics from both of the aforementioned periods is in order. From April 2013 to July 2015, JBJ had 575 plate appearances at the major league level. In those plate appearances, he had a strikeout rate, sometimes referred to as “K%,” of 28.7%. In addition, he compiled a BA of .191, an OBP of .264, a SLG of .274, while accumulating 24 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 Home Runs. For those readers unfamiliar with the terms, “Strikeout Rate,” or “K%,” it is merely the number of times that the batter has struck out divided by the number of plate appearances by the batter.
After his mechanical adjustment, encapsulating the period beginning in August 2015 until the present, JBJ has had 386 major league plate appearances. In those plate appearances, his strikeout rate has been reduced to 23.4% and if one were to calculate Bradley’s strikeout rate for only the 2016 baseball season; JBJ’s strikeout rate has been further reduced to 19.5%. This significant reduction in strikeout rate is not the cause of Bradley’s extraordinary production, but instead is “symptomatic” of it. In other words, strikeout rates usually decrease for one of two reasons: the batter is seeing the ball more clearly and has become more adept at recognizing the type of pitch, or the batter’s sound mechanics do not necessitate starting one’s swing earlier than desired. A reduction in batter strikeout rates is strongly correlated with increased offensive output.
Since Bradley retooled his mechanics in August 2015, he has compiled a BA of .309, an OBP of .385, a SLG of .591, while accruing a total of 28 doubles, 8 triples, and 17 Home Runs. JBJ’s reduction in strikeout rate from 28.7% to 19.5% may not seem that significant; however, thinking about it in the following context may prove helpful. If JBJ gets 600 plate appearances at his old strikeout rate of 28.7%, as opposed to 19.5%, it is the equivalent of two entire games where every Red Sox out is the result of a Jackie Bradley strikeout!
Bradley has rediscovered the swing that made him a number one draft pick, and with said discovery has rekindled the championship aspirations of Red Sox Nation. He has amassed 44 hits in 106 at-bats during his 29-game hitting streak, a .415 BA. He has united the Fenway Faithful for the better part of a month as they root in unison during his every plate appearance. This unbridled enthusiasm generated by the remarkable exploits and unmitigated promise of Jackie Bradley Jr. is representative of everything that baseball at the Fens is supposed to be.