The only Red Sox jersey I own is a #25 Jackie Bradley Jr. jersey. I got it for Hanukkah (thanks mom) a few years ago and I’ve never needed another one. It would have been nice if he didn’t switch numbers two weeks after I got the jersey, but that’s neither here nor there. I rock my JBJ piece proudly, whether it’s at a Red Sox game, on the streets of New York City, or any situation in between. He’s my favorite player.
But why? Why do I like a player who’s tightrope-walking the Mendoza Line more than I like Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez? Maybe it’s his ability to track fly balls better than anyone in the MLB. Maybe it’s the high-caliber rifle attached to his shoulder that he somehow passes off as a human arm. Maybe it’s the way he acts nonchalant when he makes a play that would make Jim Edmonds shake in his hung-up cleats. Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved JBJ. He’s who I model my game after.
Recently, being a ride-or-die JBJ fan has been tough. Not because my allegiance wavers — it doesn’t — but because the general public has taken to the streets of the internet with their cyber-pitchforks and Mozilla Firefox torches to denounce Jackie Bradley Jr. I have to believe this is the most backlash a baseball player named Jackie has ever received. Call me Pee Wee Reese because I’ll support Jackie through thick and thin (please don’t actually call me that).
I wouldn't trade JBJ for all of King Midas' silver https://t.co/UC2nI4XP6N
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) June 20, 2018
I’m not going to pretend that JBJ is an All-Star on paper. He’s not. His .200/.290/.322 slash line is abysmal, and his 65 OPS+ is pretty shitty. At one point, pitchers were literally throwing him 92 mph cock shots and he was swinging through them one after another. I’m not blinded by my fandom, and I’ll be the first to tell you: there have been some bumps in the road.
Howeva (please read that word in the voice of Mona Lisa Vito from My Cousin Vinny), the stats don’t paint a complete picture of Jackie’s season on the offensive side of things. Believe it or not, JBJ has been hitting the ball very hard. As a matter of fact, his average exit velocity (91.6 mph) ranks 30th in the MLB, ahead of teammates such as Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt. In addition, his line drive percentage (21.2) is the highest it’s ever been throughout his 6-year career. He’s hitting the ball hard with no results to show for it.
There are no statistical anomalies that explain JBJ’s lack of success. His plate discipline is about the same as it has been his entire career. Unfortunately, Jackie is falling victim to an extremely low BABIP, and the rest of his numbers are suffering as a result. That’s baseball.
JBJ is hitting the ball as well or better now than when he first broke out of his slump. What an amazingly frustrating few months, but CF shouldn't be on the radar of changes needed. pic.twitter.com/kMbVM0m6rY
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) June 20, 2018
Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t going to be a .300 hitter, but he also shouldn’t be a .200 hitter. He’ll find his way up to an average that garners the respect of the general public, and we can all go back to appreciating his defense without freaking out about his offense. Then we’ll all gather around a bonfire, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya.