Jackie Bradley Jr. is a contained mess.
The Boston Red Sox’ Gold Glove-caliber defender is having a disastrous time at the plate. Bradley, who is one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, has yet to pull out of his slump. He may not this season (or ever).
He has a .182 batting average, a .279 on base percentage, a .297 slugging percentage and a .576 OPS. With players who have a minimum of 150 plate appearances, Bradley’s batting average is 7th-worst, his OBP is 26th-worst, his slugging percentage is 14th-worst and his OPS also 14th-worst.
At least he’s got his defense, which is why his WAR sits at 0.0.
Then this happened. Bradley’s error was pivotal in the Sox’ loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Everyone chill. It’s not time to remove Bradley from the order — yet. The Sox’ lineup has been excellent enough to the point that they can cover for his shortcomings.
Bradley’s defense has always been his redeeming quality — one costly error in a 162-game season doesn’t change that. Moments later in the game, for example, Bradley made an incredible (albeit irrelevant) play against the Twins. Bradley gunned the ball from center field at 103.4 mph. The throw hit Sandy Leon’s mitt without a bounce, and Bradley got the assist.
If anyone needs a reminder why Bradley is still in the lineup, that play is it.
If his defensive play isn’t enough — and you’re still clamoring to pull him from the lineup — consider the Red Sox’ options.
- Blake Swihart: .149/.219/.179 (-0.6 WAR)
- Mitch Moreland: .276/.345/.530 (1.3 WAR)
We’re not looking at studs.
While Moreland looks like the obvious option, he’s not an outfielder. And an argument could be made that Swihart isn’t either (who got converted from catcher but still doesn’t look natural in the outfield). If Moreland enters the lineup and Bradley exits it, then the Sox have to put J.D. Martinez in to the outfield. How many games can they pull that off? They’d have to platoon Moreland, Swihart and Bradley. That sounds ugly.
Wouldn’t you rather wait around to see if Bradley can get hot? If he gets hot in time for the playoffs, the Sox are monsters. If they resort to a platoon, they look — more or less — like they do now. They shouldn’t give up on him. They shouldn’t pull him indefinitely nor give him a phantom injury.
Bradley gets into these funks, and the Sox have the power in their lineup to manage his mess at the plate, even if his funk lasts all season. Platoon in the playoffs — platoon just before. Barring the opportunity for the Sox to trade for an upgrade at outfielder, bailing on Bradley Jr. doesn’t make sense at this point in the season.