The BoSox Injection crew grades the 2018 season for each member of the Boston Red Sox, continuing with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
2018 was a rollercoaster season for Jackie Bradley Jr. After a poor first half, he turned it around and became one of the postseason’s biggest heroes.
For the whole season, Bradley had a .234 average with 13 home runs and 59 RBI. All of these numbers continued a downward trend since his best season in 2016 when he was an All-Star. But in 2018, he had a career-high in doubles with 33, and stolen bases with 17. His previous high in stolen bases was nine. He was also caught stealing just once.
But his defense was, as expected, the highlight of his season. Bradley won his first Gold Glove award this season because of his stellar play in center field. After years of every fan, writer, player, and coach in Boston saying he is the best center fielder in baseball, the rest of the baseball world has finally agreed, and with good reason. He was fourth in baseball in outfield assists, and the only reason he wasn’t higher on the list is that most players know not to run on his arm anymore. Again, he added to his ever-growing collection of web gems throughout the season and left Red Sox fans in awe at his ability.
It was the first half that gave Bradley troubles offensively, though. Before the All-Star break, he batted just .210. His poor numbers could be at least partially due to a fairly low batting average on balls in play. In the first half, his BABIP was .265. Bradley was struggling so much that many Red Sox fans were calling for his benching, or even a trade, even with his great defensive play.
But as he tends to do, Bradley was able to turn it around later on in the season. His batting average stayed in the .100 range until June 27, when he finally hit the .200 mark. He didn’t look back from there and his average steadily climbed the rest of the season.
Bradley had a .265 average after the All-Star break. He played 28 fewer games post-break than he did pre-break but almost managed to match his statistics from the first half. This could be attributed to his .352 BABIP after the break. He saw the ball better and was a regular contributor to the lineup.
Another aspect of Bradley’s game that he improved upon this season was his ability to hit the ball hard. His 91.9 average exit velocity was in the top six percent of the league and his 50.1 hard hit percentage was in the top four percent. Both were career-highs, but his hard hit percentage was 10 points higher than his previous best.
More from Red Sox News
- Red Sox finally get validation after Andrew Benintendi-White Sox contract
- Red Sox fans’ concern about Justin Turner signing speaks volumes
- Latest Red Sox-Rafael Devers contract update might be final straw for fans
- Is Jean Segura the solution to Red Sox’ Trevor Story concerns?
- Xander Bogaerts issues emotional farewell to Red Sox on Instagram
One other knock on his offensive performance would be his inability to come through in big situations. Later in the season, he had some important hits, but overall, Bradley was pretty bad when he needed to come through for the team. He had 44 RBI with runners in scoring position, but that is the most positive stat to come from this area. With the bases loaded, he struck out seven times and only had one hit in 17 at-bats. His 16 strikeouts compared to his 11 hits with two outs with runners in scoring position continued this poor trend, as well as 29 strikeouts compared to 17 hits in high leverage situations.
It was the playoffs where Bradley shined offensively. He only hit .200 throughout the three rounds, but he had three home runs and 10 RBI.
Each home run came in a huge spot in the game. In Game Three of the ALCS, Bradley hit a grand slam off Astros reliever Roberto Osuna with the Red Sox up 4-2 to blow the game wide open. Then in Game Four with the team down by a run in the sixth inning, he hit a go-ahead two-run homer, which put them ahead for good. With these heroics, he tallied nine RBI in the series and MVP honors.
In the World Series, he only had three hits, but one of those tied the game in the eighth inning of Game Three. The team hadn’t scored all game and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was in the game for a six out save. But Bradley, again unphased by the moment hit a homer to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Bradley’s postseason moments more than made up for what was ultimately a fairly frustrating regular season.
If it wasn’t for his success in the playoffs and his Gold Glove, this grade would probably be lower. His regular season earned him a B because a mediocre bat and great defense are all you can ask for from a guy like him. Adding in the extra speed on the basepaths helped a lot, too.
But the three homers in the postseason added so much value to Bradley’s season. Each came in a huge spot and two out of three helped secure wins. And the affirmation that comes with a Gold Glove award just makes his season that much better.
Besides, who would have ever predicted Jackie Bradley Jr. winning ALCS MVP?
Looking ahead to 2019
Bradley earned $6.1 million this year after his second year of arbitration. He has two more years of it left, leaving him under team control for that much longer.
There is a potential logjam in the outfield, though. Depending on what Dave Dombrowski decides to do this offseason, Bradley could see himself in the middle of trade talks. Mookie Betts isn’t going anywhere and it’s highly unlikely that we will see Andrew Benintendi traded, which makes Bradley the odd man out.
But Dombrowski has always liked Bradley and has seen the value he brings to the team. It’s likely he’ll find other ways to bolster the team for 2019. Expect Bradley to be roaming center field at Fenway Park yet again next season.