Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jackie Bradley Jr. must stay in Red Sox lineup –– for now

Alex Reimer
June 20, 2018 - 2:30 pm

If Jackie Bradley Jr. hits himself out of the lineup, his glove and throwing arm will come with him. That’s why he should stay. 

Bradley made an incredible throw Tuesday in the Red Sox’ 6-2 loss to the Twins, gunning down Robbie Grossman at the plate in the eighth inning. Bradley hurled the ball from deep left-center field, and it reached catcher Sandy Leon on a line.

It was probably the second best throw of Bradley’s career.

The Red Sox have a weak bottom of the order in comparison to the Yankees and Astros. Boston’s 6-9 hitters Tuesday –– Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez, Leon and Bradley –– have a combined OPS of .628. Bradley is the worst offender at .576. 

Despite that, Bradley should remain the everyday center fielder for as long as the Red Sox can bear his offensive woes. Even if his anemic .182/.279/.297 slash line never improves, he still warrants a spot –– for now. In comparison to the rest of the league, the Red Sox are receiving average value out of center field. Their center fielders rank seventh in wins above average (-0.1), and Bradley has started 58 out of 74 games there. 

Bradley’s defense is so good, his WAR is an even 0.0, which isn’t the worst in the lineup. That honor usually belongs to Nunez (-1.1). 

According to the numbers, Bradley is neither hurting nor helping the Red Sox at this point. Obviously, that’s not enough to start for the rest of the season. But it remains possible, if not likely, Bradley will break out of his prolonged slumber at the plate. From May 20-June 5, Bradley hit .304 and appeared to be on the verge of a hot streak. His batting averaged has dipped considerably since then, even though he’s hitting the ball even harder and striking out less.

That indicates Bradley is in a spell of bad luck. The process is correct; the results just haven’t followed.

Over the last three seasons, Bradley’s average slash line is .255/.337/.456 with 18 home runs. While there were tons of streaky spells, he provided more than enough offense to accompany his defense. Bradley’s WAR in 2016, for example, was 5.5.

The numbers say Bradley is worth the patience. His throw Tuesday showed it. 

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