In a great overview of the stats around Bradley Jr., Michael Walsh charts his 2013 call up season through his best 2017 season where he had a 29-game hitting streak. It's a tribute to the feeling that Bradley Jr. had finally arrived as a major league player.
Then comes his performance in 2018.
Don't get this wrong, it's only Bradley Jr.'s offense that is lacking. Defensively he's contributed a 3.0 WAR over the last two seasons according to Baseball Reference, but offensively this year he's currently posting a -0.2 WAR.
Knowing this, why does Bradley Jr. look so bad at the plate?
If you've watched any games this year, you've seen opposing pitchers throwing fastball after fastball just under his hands. This heat map posted just after last weekends game by Red Sox Stats quantifies the previous four games.
The last four days Bradley has seen 37 pitches, 34 fastballs, 3 sliders. Every pitch directly under his hands. pic.twitter.com/dhcPyQlAR5
“He’s in a better athletic position. I don’t know if you guys watched the game yesterday, but there was no leg kick. It seemed like he was on time,” Cora said. “The first one, (C.J.) Cron, didn’t make the play. But then the second hit, he stayed up the middle, hands inside the ball, and hit it back towards the middle. Then the ground ball he hit to second base, that was a good stroke too. He walked Sunday at home, yesterday on the 3-2 count it was a 50-50 pitch, actually –– borderline up and away. The call went against him, but it seems like he’s seeing the ball a little bit better the last few days.”
The solution seems to be playing Bradley Jr. in center field, working through his issues at the plate while Martinez, Betts and Xander Bogaerts are providing more than enough offense to cover. Martinez is a below average left fielder and provides too much offensive value to risk running into injuries out there. Martinez should DH more often than not. Other options are too much of a drop off in defense, such as Andrew Benintendi, Blake Swihart or utility player Brock Holt.
When you have a center fielder that is starting his routes to fly balls before they even leave the bat, you know you have something special out there in Bradley Jr..
Save the option, save Martinez by putting him on permanent DH duty, and allow Bradley Jr. to work out hitting fastballs in the lineup.
There is plenty of time to consider moving him to Pawtucket should the offense dry up.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell