Jackie Bradley, Jr. is square in the middle of perhaps the worst slump of his career with the Boston Red Sox, and that’s saying something for a serial streaky hitter with a lifetime BA of just .234. He’s currently hitting a measly .165 in 127 AB’s, he’s been unable to catch up to even the most pedestrian fastballs, and quite frankly, he looks plain lost at the plate. That’s why it may be time for him to ride the pine until he can work his way out of this funk.
Aside from his anemic BA, Bradley has also posted just a .267 OBP and a .252 SLG%. The biggest issue for Bradley has been the fastball, particularly the high and inside variety.
(Photo credit: Fangraphs)
The graphic above is the heat map of pitches Bradley faced in the Baltimore series. He saw 37 total pitches, 34 of which were fastballs directly under his hands. He recorded just 1 hit in 10 AB’s during that stretch, and with the pressure to turn his season around mounting, his frustration finally boiled over on Sunday.
It’s hard to see at full speed, but if you ever get the chance to do so, watch Bradley’s swing closely. Notice how long and looping it is. This is the exact cause of his problem with making contact with pitches under his hands; he’s unable to level his bat out in time and, despite the pitch being high and tight, he swings under it almost every time.
Now, this is something that can be fixed with extensive work in the cages with Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers, but that type of work will take some time, and there’s guys behind Bradley on the depth chart that deserve a chance to play more often while he’s figuring his swing out.
Mitch Moreland is currently hitting .313 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI, Brock Holt is batting .329, and both have done so while logging less than 100 at-bats so far this year. Holt could be a like-for-like replacement in the outfield, where he could man either left or right field and push either Benintendi or Betts to center. Meanwhile, Moreland could slot in at first base, pushing Hanley Ramirez to the full time DH spot and J.D. Martinez to the mostly every day LF role, if that’s the preferred route of Alex Cora.
Many argue that Bradley provides enough of a defensive presence to justify his place in the starting lineup, and while he would still prove valuable as a late-inning defensive replacement in CF, until he can find his swing he’s doing more harm offensively than good with the glove.