The red-hot Boston offense has cooled lately and that’s largely because of the under-performance of some of the young stars that led the charge in the early part of the season. Ian York looks at Jackie Bradley Jr. in August to see if pitchers adjusted to him, or if he was doing anything different to cause his ineffectiveness at the plate.
Last August, Jackie Bradley Jr. abruptly turned a horrible season into a triumphant one: Through July 31, 2015, he batted .125/.217/.200/.417; from August 1 to the end of the season he batted .276/.361/.564/.924.
In 2016, Bradley seems to be doing the opposite. Through July 31 in 2016, his OPS was .915; since August 1, .651 (and that only after he raised it by 70 points via his three-hit performance on August 31). Basically, Bradley had a huge run early in the year (during which he had his 29-game hit streak), followed it with a couple of months during which he consistently batted with a mid-.800s OPS, and then fell off the table in August. Here are his batting statistics: The curves show rolling ten-game averages, and the horizontal lines show Bradley’s overall means:
In fact, his August slump seems to be two shorter slumps, bracketing the center of the month, when he was reasonably good for a week or two.
Is this something to be deeply concerned about? We can break down Bradley’s batting to see if something changed about the time his slump started. He has strong preferences for pitch type:
This year, Bradley has hit fastballs at about a league-average rate; hit offspeed pitches worse than average; but destroyed breaking pitches, nearly doubling the league average total bases on them:
|Hits/100 pitches||Total bases/100 pitches|
We can look at the pitch mix he has been facing, to see if pitchers have adapted to the new JBJ by throwing more offspeed and fewer breaking pitches in August:
That doesn’t seem to be the case; if anything, he saw more offspeed pitches in July, a month during which he batted a very reasonable .298/.350/.489/.839.
Bradley has a pronounced handedness split: In 2016, his OPS against right-handed pitchers is .920, compared to just .672 against left-handed pitchers. However, month-by-month, his numbers against lefties are all over the place:
|Right-handed pitchers||Left-handed pitchers|
|Plate appearances||OPS||Plate appearances||OPS|
Looking at Bradley’s 2016 overall, we see a player who has had some bad periods against left-handed pitchers, but who has been reasonably consistent against righties, with the exception of about 20 days in August out of the nearly 5 months of the season.
What is it that we expect from Bradley? If we hope that he will consistently have an OPS close to 1.000 (as in the last half of 2015 and the first half of 2016), we may be disappointed. But a player who combines Bradley’s excellent defense with an OPS in the mid-.800s is very valuable, and that is what we are seeing in 2016.