The Boston Red Sox season has been a failure, but there have been some diamonds in the rough. The team’s youth movement provided a boost in August and gave fans a glimpse of the future. However, Ian York thinks that Jackie Bradley Jr needs to make a readjustment.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has had a three-part season so far: 24 games through Aug 8, in which he had an OPS of .426; 25 games (Aug 9 through Sept 7) with an OPS of 1.441; and since then, 8 games with an OPS of just .262.
We looked at Bradley when he was in the midst of his breakout, to see what had changed. He started the season unable to hit inside pitches:
The contour maps show that left-handed pitchers were aware of his vulnerability inside, and threw most of their fastballs to the inside third of the zone. Right-handed pitchers didn’t even bother doing that, since he was completely unable to catch up to any of their fastballs.
After changing his batting mechanics, he started to crush the inside pitch again. However, we noticed some possible weaknesses in his zone coverage:
Over the next few games, expect to see fewer fastballs inside, and perhaps more pitches in the bottom third of the strike zone.
Could his present short slump be related to pitchers changing their approach to him? Here are the locations of the fastballs Bradley has seen from left- and right-handed pitchers, before, during, and after his breakout 25 games:
(These charts are from the umpire’s viewpoint, so Bradley would stand to the right of each chart. The grey polygon represents the de facto strike zone this year.) Pitchers have indeed changed their plan of attack. Now, instead of inside fastballs, Bradley is seeing fastballs that are much more respectful, as they are targeting the edges of the zone. Specifically, he is mostly seeing low and outside pitches.
As we said earlier, Bradley’s ability to adapt to the new scouting reports will determine his major-league utility. If he can start hitting these pitches, the odds are that he will be a very productive player.