The Meaning of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s Streak

Jackie Bradley Jr. is on fire right now. To say he is swinging a hot bat is an understatement. Today he just extended his hitting streak to 27 games; this is not an easy feat, but what people might not understand is that this is much more than just a hitting streak.

Bradley is currently hitting .408, with a 1.272 OPS, 18 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs, and 17 runs during the streak. On the season, he is hitting a league-leading .342 with a 1.031 OPS, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 8 home runs, and 33 RBIs. This streak is proving that the glimpse Bradley showed us last year in August was not necessarily a fluke. And my god did he need to prove that it wasn’t.

The Jackie Bradley Jr. who came into the majors was not good at all. He even got worse his second year, and his chances were seemingly hanging by a thread in Boston. For some very lucky reason, he was not moved, even though everyone seemingly gave up on him. He was always great defensively, but his bat struggled for quite a while.

In 2014, he exceeded his limit to be considered a rookie and batted a minuscule .198, with a .531 OPS, and a relatively high strike out total of 121. His swing was flawed and caused him to have lots of holes in his approach, and left him struggling to hit even a fastball.

In 2015, there were improvements. His swing seemed to be shorter and quicker, which did show advances in his stats. Last year he batted .249, with an OPS of .832, but he did see a good amount of strikeouts as well with 69 in only 255 plate appearances, which significantly hurt the amount of quality at-bats he was still having. According to Fangraphs, one reason for this could have been that Bradley made contact with 61% of his swings against offspeed pitches, which ranked him in the 21st percentile amongst MLB players. However, the supposed fluke of a hot streak Bradley had during the last part of the 2015 season  is now beginning to look like it was the official start of the new Jackie Bradley Jr.

This season his contact rate is up to 73% which now puts him in the 71st percentile (Fangraphs). That’s a huge jump, and just proves that he has learned a lot about his swing. A fluke cannot be responsible for such a stat like that; this improvement clearly shows that Jackie Bradley Jr. did in fact, figure something out.

This chart from Fangraphs shows the progression of Jackie Bradley’s pitch value progression, which depicts his success against fastballs vs. non-fastballs. It is clear that he has improved a great amount, especially with hitting offspeed, which is very valuable.

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Image from: FANGRAPHS

This 27 game hitting streak, I refuse to call a “streak.” Sure, he has recorded a base hit in 27 consecutive games, so in that sense okay call it a streak. But, this success is not going anywhere, that in itself is not a streak. He is going to continue to hit and he is going to continue to bring production to the lineup. The progression is evident; it just took a little longer than Red Sox Nation was hoping for. This 27 game hitting “streak” is much more than just a streak, it is proof that Jackie Bradley Jr. is serious and deserves to be an essential part of this Red Sox team.

I, for one, am sorry I ever doubted Jackie Bradley Jr.

Please forgive me.

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