Jackie Bradley Jr.

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Jackie Bradley Jr.'s long-awaited playoff coming-out party shows the importance of patience

Alex Reimer
October 18, 2018 - 10:30 am

At one point next summer, it is likely Jackie Bradley Jr. will scuffle at the plate. The center fielder will probably flail wildly at balls out of the strike zone and put on uncompetitive at-bats. It will be maddening to watch.

When this happened this season, there were calls to bench JBJ, or worse, trade him. Hopefully his postseason coming-out party forever retires those reactionary demands.

Bradley is on track to win ALCS MVP, following two gargantuan home runs in Games 3 and 4 against Houston. His grand slam off Roberto Osuna in the eighth inning Tuesday put the Astros away, and his two-run blast off Josh James in the sixth inning Wednesday gave the Red Sox a lead they would not relinquish. 

Oh, and his three-run double in Game 2 off Gerrit Cole gave the Red Sox a lead with David Price on the mound, and turned the tide of the series. It’s propelled Boston to three straight wins, putting the Red Sox on the doorstep of the World Series.

JBJ’s offensive outburst shouldn’t be a big surprise, considering how strong he finished the season. Over his final 76 games of the campaign, Bradley slashed .282/.349/.502 with nine home runs and 25 extra-base hits. For comparison's sake, Andrew Benintendi hit .286/.352/.401 with three home runs over that same stretch.

Over the last three seasons, Bradley is averaging 19 home runs with a .763 OPS. In that time span, he’s accumulated a WAR of 10.2, which isn’t surprising, considering his sensational defense. 

Bradley’s incredible ability with his glove should keep him in the lineup even when his of offensive production isn’t nearly that gaudy. On June 20, when JBJ was slashing .182/.279/.297,  his WAR was an even 0.0, which is a testament to his defensive ability.

In many respects, Bradley’s road is a testament to the importance of patience. It was apparent he wasn’t ready to be a big league contributor in 2013 or 2014, when hit .196 with 152 strikeouts in his first 164 games. It got so bad for Bradley in 2014, the Red Sox sent him back to the minor leagues in August, amidst questions about his work ethic and willingness to take instruction.

The following season, Bradley didn’t play in the big leagues until May. His batting average stood at a laughable .119 on Aug. 1, which prompted him to troll beloved color commentator Dennis Eckersley on Twitter. The now-infamous photograph made the rounds when David Price chewed out Eckersley on the team plane last year.

Bradley finished the 2015 campaign strong, along with the rest of his young teammates, setting himself up for a breakout 2016 season. While JBJ hasn’t reached those heights since –– 26 home runs, .835 OPS –– he’s seemingly settled into what he’ll be: an exceptional defender with more than enough pop to carry a place at the bottom of the lineup.

Or, in regards to his work in the ALCS, carry the Red Sox to victory.