Jackie Bradley, Jr. will benefit from the launch angle philosophy that J.D. Martinez brought to the Boston Red Sox last season.
Let me start by saying that at first, I was not a big launch angle fan. I felt like it was increasing strikeouts, devaluing the art of getting a base hit, and in turn lowering the skill of the hitters in Major League Baseball. Launch angle was turning the sport into a strikeout or home run league. No in between.
When I say lowering skill, let me clarify. These players are still the best in the world. But there is something to say for a guy who with two strikes would be able to hit the ball to the opposite field by shortening his swing and lower his chances at striking out by putting the ball in play.
However, after watching J.D. Martinez last year, I changed my perspective. He showed the world that you can use launch angle to become a powerful hitter but still have great mechanics to hit the ball all over the field to be an almost impossible out.
One reason I think he should have been MVP last year was his effect on Mookie Betts. This article by Sean McAdam of BostonSportsJournal.com describes in detail what we all learned last season.
Mookie leaned on Martinez for advice and like most great players didn’t just absorb the information, he used it to transform into the MVP of the American League.
Next up on the offensive renaissance train? Jackie Bradley Jr. In an interview with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, JBJ details what changes he made and why he made small strides last year but couldn’t really make a full commitment because in season results matter.
JBJ details how things changed once he was able to visit Craig Wallenbrock. Martinez recommended Wallenbrock to JBJ last year. About halfway through the season, the Red Sox Gold Glove center fielder gave Wallenbrock a call and started the process that would lead to a second half that produced a higher batting average, OBP, SLUG %, OPS, OPS +, and BABIP. Bradley also produced one more home run in 105 fewer at-bats.
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I would always describe JBJ as a player who just needed to hit .240 and around 15 home runs to justify keeping him in the everyday lineup. His defense was always so good that he would save you enough runs to make up for the up and down offensive production. And let’s acknowledge that his downs have always been lower than the high of his ups.
The ability has always been there though. Let’s not forget that in 2016 the Red Sox enjoyed their best JBJ season where the center fielder erupted for 26 home runs and 87 RBI’s with a .267 BA and a .835 OPS.
The power has always been there. Moving into a launch angle philosophy might be the key he needs to open up the door to the rest of his potential. People talk about this Red Sox lineup being dangerous because of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie, J.D., Xander Bogaerts, and the potential of Rafael Devers. Now imagine inserting a Bradley who hits .280 with an OPS of .850 and 90 RBI’s. That’s the potential I see for him if this launch angle approach pays off for him as it did for Mookie last year.
Last year, JBJ hit 9th for a majority of his at-bats, 265 times to be exact. If you have a bottom third of the order hitter producing the numbers I said he could potentially hit, then good luck to the American League.