Jackie Bradley Jr. will never be confused with Ken Griffey Jr. as a great all-around center fielder. He’s got the defense down pat for sure, but his offensive production has long been less-than-desirable.
JBJ hit just .234 this season, and in his best offensive season ever (2016) he had just a .267 batting average. Even in this postseason, Bradley Jr.’s average is just .200.
But Bradley Jr. has made every single hit he’s had this October count.
The 28-year-old, who won a ring with the Sox in his first MLB season in 2013, was the MVP of the ALCS this year when he came up with nine RBI against the defending champion Astros. Overshadowed by the heroics of Nathan Eovaldi in the Sox’ Game 3 Marathon loss to the Dodgers in the World Series Friday night/Saturday morning was Bradley Jr.’s clutch game-tying home run in the top of the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. It was yet another two-out hit for Bradley Jr and the Sox and it came off of Kenley Jansen, one of the top relievers in baseball. Bradley Jr. has clearly earned the trust of manager Alex Cora, who started the Virginia native over Andrew Benintendi in Game 3.
Cora wanted Bradley Jr. and several other young Sox players to show more emotion this postseason, and Sox fans have seen it as the center fielder’s smile and “hip-shimmy” has been on display.
“I was like, hey man, you guys are good. You should play the part,” Cora said. “And I think we show emotion [now]. They’ve got that thing, whatever they do when they hit doubles. That hip thing. They’re great kids. They’re awesome. Very humble. But I think people should know who they really are with the way they act on the field. Like Mookie [Betts], I talk about him smiling, and Jackie – who is very quiet – the other day he hit that double and he celebrated, finally. And that’s what it’s all about. This is October.”
Bradley Jr. saw his batting average fall to a paltry .161 in May but finished the regular season strong. It set up this postseason run that will be remembered for the rest of his playing days in Boston.
“It’s all him,” Cora said. “Because at this level, when you’re hitting .180 after two months, three months, it’s hard. He kept showing up. He kept working. He kept working his craft. Now you see the results. I’m happy for Jackie. It was a struggle early in the season but he’s been very consistent at the end.”