Friday, May 13, 2016

Jackie Bradley Jr is the Best Outfielder in Baseball

I'm not even really sure it's close. I don't even have to bore you with the numbers. You all know it just as well as I do.

Will he stay that way?

I have no earthly idea. Neither do you.

After all, we've asked this very question before. Is our answer any different? Maybe. Just maybe.

I look back at that previous post, and I see some of the questions becoming answers this time. He had just started a hot streak, since he was finally getting at-bats. Prior to that, he spent so much time looking over his shoulder at his replacement, or up at the scoreboard at his anemic average, that he didn't have any time to look at the pitcher he was facing. Of course he couldn't hit. The Red Sox put him in a bad spot, and he couldn't get out of it. It's hard to get hits when you're riding the bench because you're not hitting. It's hard to learn how to hit the inside fastball when you only see one a week, and spend it trying to prove to everyone you
can hit an inside fastball. It was a mess.

This year is different. No looking over his shoulder. Heck, the utility infielder is starting in left. Who could possibly be putting pressure on Bradley. He also started out well. He didn't start May with a .125 next to his name in the box score. That's huge. Because, he's going to slump. It may be a lengthy slump. But, when you fall from .300 to .275, that's much different that starting out a .205. There's a comfort level there that has never been there before.

Because, this isn't entirely shocking. Oh, sure none of us were expecting Tris Speaker to be patrolling centerfield this season. But, he's always shown he could hit. He was never a defensive specialist who struggled to keep his spot in the lineup. His performance improved every time he was promoted. There's no reason whatsoever that we should have expected anything below "solid" at the plate. I think we all fooled ourselves by setting phony bars. "Boy, with that glove, I'm ok if he hits .250" or something along those lines. Sure, we were stating the truth. But, we were also creating artificially low expectations. So, when he struggled we were more apt to worry. Think of our reactions to David Price this season as opposed to Clay Buchholz when they struggle. Give up a hit, and one was getting the benefit of the doubt, while the other wasn't. 

Jackie wasn't. We weren't fair to him that way. 

So, this is what we get from Bradley now. He still has the incredible defense. But, now he's free to hit as well. No nit picking. No stressing. Just getting out and playing. When a slump comes, he'll be free to work himself out of it. A hitless game against Felix Hernandez doesn't mean he'll get demoted the next day. It just means King Felix is a really good pitcher who sometimes gets opposing hitters out. He has a margin of error that he's never had before, and he's taking advantage of it. And that's really really fun to watch.

Especially from Section 36

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