Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is notoriously streaky at the plate but has performed sufficiently since the All-Star break.
Jackie Bradley can be maddeningly frustrating for Boston Red Sox fans to watch at the plate yet he’s proven capable of putting together extended stretches of solid production. He’s been locked into one of those streaks in the second half of this season.
Bradley’s overall numbers this season are still awful. He’s hitting a putrid .232 with a .710 OPS, his lowest marks since he was a rookie in 2014. He currently sits at 12 home runs and 57 RBI, which at this stage of the season will make it a challenge to meet his totals from last year’s disappointing campaign. He’ll finish nowhere near 2016’s breakout season when he made his lone All-Star appearance.
The batting average stands out most as a hindrance to a powerful Red Sox lineup. Believe it or not, his dismal average is actually quite impressive for a hitter who was still struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line in early July.
The second half has been a different story for Bradley. He’s hitting .270/.335/.497 in 159 at-bats since the break. His .832 OPS ranks 29th in the American League and he’s tied for 20th with 21 extra-base hits over that span. While that’s hardly star-caliber production, it represents a massive improvement over his first-half results. After scuffling through several months of Bradley being a black hole at the plate, the Red Sox should be thrilled to see him performing at an above-average level.
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We should have seen this improvement coming to some extent. Even when he was struggling, Bradley was still hitting the ball hard. Far too often, those hard-hit balls would land in the path of an awaiting defender. Bradley’s .265 BABIP in the first half of this season was far below his career rate and league average, suggesting that correction was coming.
His luck has turned around since the break with his BABIP rising to .352, which is well above any rate he’s produced before. Bradley’s fortune may have overcorrected a bit, although perhaps not by much. With a career-high 40.7 Hard-Hit Percentage and career-low 10.1 Soft-Hit Percentage, we should expect more balls hit into play to fall in for hits.
Boston has the highest scoring lineup in baseball but they become far more dangerous when Bradley is producing at the bottom of the order. This will become even more important in the postseason when the Red Sox face the league’s top pitching staffs and loaded bullpens.
Bradley is a meager 4-for-25 (.160) with only one extra-base hit in seven career postseason games. He hasn’t been someone the Red Sox can count on for offensive production in either of their first-round exits over the last two years but that could change this season.
His playoff resume leaves a lot to be desired but Bradley has also struggled down the stretch the last two years. He hit a paltry .204 with a .579 OPS in the second half of last season and hit .233 with a .727 OPS after the break the previous year. His overall numbers will look worse than they have the last two seasons but at least he’s heating up at the right time. He’ll carry more momentum into October this year and that could make all the difference for a notoriously streaky hitter.
Bradley is a defensive wizard in center field who can at times be a liability at the plate. If he can combine this type of production we’re seeing in the second half with his otherworldly defensive talents then he can be a very valuable player.