Red Sox: Possible options for a slumping Jackie Bradley
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox are attempting to find their offense. One big hole in the lineup is the suddenly inept Jackie Bradley. What options exist?
There are mysterious things that scientists cannot explain, such as why do humans have different blood types? There is also an almost endless list of mysterious occurrence and disappearances that cannot be explained. Baseball certainly has them and so do the Boston Red Sox. The most current disappearance is the bat of Jackie Bradley.
Historically, this latest slump by Bradley is not a new and shocking revelation – this is exactly what Bradley has done in his career. A few seasons ago, Bradley made the team via a monstrous spring training that forced the Red Sox to put him in the starting lineup. Eventually, Bradley whiffed his way back to the minors.
Last season was typical of Bradley, who made the American League All-Star team based on hot hitting and extraordinary glove work. Bradley bashed at a .296 clip for the first half and sunk to .233 in the second half. The good news is Bradley’s power production was relatively stable. As Jerry Reed would sing: “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”
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Streaks in baseball are nothing new since batters and pitchers both are capable of slumps and prodigious displays that make one wonder “If only they could bottle that?” Bradley, however, has certainly created hot/cold to an art form with streaks of line shots followed by droughts of “Oh Fer’s” that are about as lengthy as any I can recall among Red Sox players.
Is it worth it?
Bradley wins games with his arm and glove and even his speed despite the occasional bonehead base running Faux Pas as demonstrated against the Orioles. But this season patience is something that may evaporate as the Red Sox search for some type of offense lightning bolt.
Bradley got a manager’s decision the other night and was sent to the bench – at least for one game – as Chris Young took over left field and Andrew Benintendi moved to his left to cover center field. What I have noticed is Bradley hits best when he hits last – a career .260 hitter in the ninth slot. Last season that figure was .341 and .333 batting eighth.
The Red Sox have not moved Bradley down in the order having him hit either sixth or seventh. Somewhat understandable considering that Sandy Leon and Marco Hernandez have received some serious playing time. That gives me a big “So what?” Bradley needs to get in gear and having him back in a comfy place may be enough to get the fossilized bat to what it should be.
Just how far Boston will go with Bradley is certainly dependent upon a few factors. The first is Young. Can he get some quality swings that will call for more playing time? The next is Brock Holt, who appears to be in dire circumstances with a career threatening vertigo. Holt would be a find fix for a half-dozen or so games as a replacement.
Internal options exist, but will they be any improvement? Steve Selsky did not impress and has taken the I-95 to Pawtucket. Blake Swihart who got a brief initiation in left in 2016 and is hitting barely above the Mendoza Line. Rusney Castillo would cause the balance sheet to shoot over the luxury tax threshold. Allen Craig is just a trivia question. The rest of the Pawtucket outfielders offer little as a replacement option.
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The fact is we will have to live with Bradley and have our worry beads worn smooth hoping that Bradley will soon ignite and go on one of his streaks.