Dear Boston Red Sox, just when is enough finally enough? The efforts of Jackie Bradley and Blake Swihart shout out for change – any change.
Baseball decisions are often rooted in numbers. Statistics – especially the melding of traditional and metrics – provides a firmer baseline and predictive measure of outcome. The sophistication of metrics with multiple layers of technology can provide the insight for decision-making either long or short-term.
That said, I will simplify a situation that now exists on the Boston Red Sox. Two players – specifically Jackie Bradley and Blake Swihart – are null in mathematical terms. Bradley, in particular, is a Waiting for Godot as his bat will eventually rise out of the sub-Mendoza Line muck and go on that long-awaited tear. Not happening.
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“Supporting” Chris Sale on Friday evening, the twosome managed five strikeouts in six plate appearances. Both spent another game flailing away with futility to the detriment of an outstanding pitching performance.
Bradley is befuddled and lost with his tool of choice – a bat. This is nothing that is a revelation for Red Sox aficionados since Bradley’s ability for prolonged slumps and hot streaks are a career modus operandi.
The tired refrain on Bradley is his defensive accomplishments, but, quite frankly, that is overrated. Now before anyone has a stroke over such Red Sox heresy the numbers certainly spell that out. Bradley is now -1 on DRS. (Defensive Runs Saved) and his 4.4 UZR/150 is eighth among American League center fielders. If you wish to accumulate Gold Gloves, Bradley has done in his trophy case. Bradley is a superior defender, but far from the best at his task in the American League.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
Bradley has been given almost the entire 2018 season to get untracked and remains derailed. The saving grace for Bradley is the team is a run-producing machine, but eventually, holes in your lineup will impact and Sale will vouch for that. A few days off have done nothing to mitigate the offensive disaster that is Bradley.
So what do you do?
Trading Bradley is difficult based on expected returns. I doubt market conditions exist that will give a bounty of prized prospects for a “good field and no hit” outfielder. What the Red Sox will receive is payroll relief based on Bradley’s $6.1 million salary. Would that be enough to entice a return to the roster of Rusney Castillo and his $11.7 million salary? Maybe a salary dump elsewhere? How about president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski taking one of his usual bold steps by sending both elsewhere?
The Red Sox have also shown an offensive and defensive alignment that excludes Bradley from the lineup. Bradley is therefore relegated to spot duty as a defensive replacement, pinch runner – if Steven Wright is unavailable, or in desperate times to take a few swings as a pinch-hitter. Good luck with that last frightening option.
The Red Sox also have another internal option with Brock Holt. Holt has a limited defensive skill set in any of the multiple positions, but that is certainly offset by the fact Holt hits and hits rather well now that he is once again healthy. The Red Sox could also use Swihart, but why?
Swihart is making Bradley look like Wade Boggs. Some may be the resistance by the Red Sox to give Swihart extended playing time even when the catchers were in a hitting funk. However, from my view, it is now a wasted effort. Swihart simply is another promising player whose skills were eroded by injury, performance, and the fact that Swihart just may have been overvalued. Certainly not the first Red Sox prospect to go into a career tailspin and never recover.
Swihart as with Bradley has limited trade value. You may end up with a Player To Be Named Later all based on how Swihart adapts to his new baseball residence. For those who see PTBNL as a baseball dead-end, it is well noted that David Ortiz was once a PTBNL.
At this point of the season and with a team that will probably exceed 100 wins change is difficult. Why rock the boat as a cliché would say. But this boat may be taking in a few leaks and on offense, those leaks are Bradley and Swihart.