Jackie Bradley Jr. has never been a guy that you expect to compete for a batting title. Prior to this season with the Brewers, he was a career .236 hitter with abilities in the outfield that few others possessed. His offense was serviceable enough to keep him in the lineup everyday and he let his glove do the most of the talking.
Now in Milwaukee, he’s still making spectacular plays wherever he’s placed in the outfield, but his bat has been anything but reliable.
In the odd season that 2020 was, Bradley Jr. saw some of his best production at the plate in his entire eight year career. In 55 games he slashed .283/.364/.450 and an OPS+ of 118 (league average is 100) with career highs in batting average and on-base percentage. Now fast forward to today and JBJ is slashing .156/.229/.281 and a 39 OPS+ with career lows in batting average and on-base percentage.
Something is just not clicking for Bradley Jr. at the plate right now and his bat is becoming a bigger liability for the Brewers than his glove is an asset.
I’m not going to pretend I know how to fix a major league baseball player’s swing. And this article isn’t to say that Bradley Jr. isn’t working hard on improving.
In fact, general manager David Stearns had this to say about JBJ’s work ethic, “It’s been a struggle, clearly. I think Jackie is working really hard to find the right timing to understand how they’re pitching him here. He’s seeing a lot of spin, clearly, and I think he understands that. I still think he’s going to get going.”
Let’s first take a look at some of Bradley’s splits from this year and his career in general.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has never been a guy that starts off the season with a scorching hot bat, quite the opposite actually. In March/April he has a career average of .204 and that number crawls up a bit to .227 in May. He typically has his best months right in the middle of the season with averages of .262 and .252 in June and July respectively.
So far in the month of May, he’s 2-41 at the plate with 16 strikeouts. But the injury situation paired with the fact that he was recently signed to a healthy contract in the offseason, has the Brewers opting to ride out the wave and see if he can get going.
This year, his numbers suggest a bit less overall success against right-handed pitchers (.159/.211/.262) compared to left-handed pitchers (.143/.308/.361) but the sample size is much smaller against southpaws.
Another split I found interesting was how he fields his best average when hitting leadoff compared to moving down in the order where he typically starts most of his games in the lineup. Also, strangely enough, his numbers drop the more times he sees a pitcher compared to most hitters that improve the more times they see the opposing hurler.
Lastly, he struggles mightily (.098/.178/.171) against “power pitchers” or guys that are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks compared to not being all that bad (.240/.321/.420) against “finesse pitchers” who rank in the lower third of that same category.
Now let’s see what our Statcast friends over at Baseball Savant have on JBJ that might be of interest.
At the top of his profile you see lots of numbers with dark blue and while we enjoy the Brewers threads, this is not where you want to see that color. He ranks in the bottom 25th percentile in Barrel %, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, K%, BB% and Whiff %. As you scroll down a bit though, one thing pops out.
He is struggling mightily with breaking pitches.
Breaking pitches are categorized as sliders, curveballs, or knuckleballs and opposing pitchers know he’s struggling with this pitch type so he’s seeing a lot more than usual. 38.7% of the pitches JBJ is seeing this season are breaking balls which is a huge increase from the 23.2% that he saw last year. Obviously with the increase from the other pitch type, Bradley Jr. is seeing 12% less fastballs than he saw in 2020…which is a big drop. Specifically, he owns an average of .078 (4-51) against breaking balls with a whiff percentage of 44.4% and a put away percentage of 36.8%.
In terms of plate discipline, it appears he’s also struggling to decipher which pitches to be swinging at. JBJ owns a chase percentage of 28.4% which is up almost 5% from last year and is also the highest in his career. Last year when he chased pitches out of the zone he would still make contact 62.4% of the time while this year that number has plummeted to 42.5%. He is also swinging at a few more first pitches than usual this season along with a whiff percentage that is also a career high (35.6%).
So that is my best attempt to give you an in-depth look at one of the bigger offseason acquisitions’ troubles this year. This article isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom…I still love the signing of Jackie Bradley Jr. Hopefully he can get things going in June and July like he historically has and become a major focal point offensively and defensively for the Crew.