How’s that corny ass high school yearbook quote go? Don’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it happened? Some shit like that? That’s how I feel about Jackie Bradley Jr.s’ 29-game hitting streak.
Over his 29-game hitting streak, Bradley went 44-for-106 with 9 doubles, 3 triples and 8 home runs. That’s a batting average of .415, an on-base percentage of .488, and a slugging percentage of .783, which equals out to be a 1.271 OPS. The hitting streak began on April 24 on a Sunday Night Baseball game in Houston, which the Red Sox won in 12 innings, after Bradley went 2-for-6 with the game-winning RBI.
Since the start of his hitting streak (including his 0-for-4 on Thursday), Bradley collected 44 hits, which is the fourth most hits in the MLB during that span. Coincidentally, Bradley’s teammate Xander Bogaerts leads the MLB in hits since April 24 (49), Mookie Betts leads the MLB in runs (26), and David Ortiz leads the MLB in doubles (14), RBIs (31), and slugging percentage (.766). And despite going hitless last night, Bradley leads the MLB in OPS since his streak started (1.227), he’s second in slugging (.755), second in on-base percentage (.472), and second in RBIs (30).
I know that Bradley’s been awesome this year — and that’s an understatement — but it wasn’t too long ago that we weren’t quite sure of what kind of hitter he’d become at the major league level. I mean, are we even sure of that now? I guess we’ll have a better idea at the end of this season, once we see how low his valleys are, since we’ve now seen what a peak looks like for him in 2016.
But to the crowd that’s blaming Red Sox manager John Farrell for ending the hitting streak — stop it. Betts had played in every single game this season up until Thursday night, and if you have your leadoff hitter on the bench, don’t you think that it makes sense to have a guy who has a .488 OBP over the last month fill in for him? Farrell’s managing to win; he’s not managing to keep a hitting streak alive. And even then, it’s not like batting leadoff is the reason why Bradley’s streak ended. Per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, Bradley was a leadoff hitter in 274 of the 303 games that he played as a minor leaguer. Beyond that, he hit two balls to the warning track in his first three plate appearances. Some geeky nerd shit here, but it’s definitely noteworthy.
The move to the top of the lineup didn’t alter his aggressiveness. In his first at-bat, he looked at one fastball from Rockies righthander Jonathan Gray and then hacked at the second, a hard-hit ball at 100 mph off the bat with a launch angle of 30 degrees. According to Daren Willman, the master of Statcast sorcery and proprietor of BaseballSavant.com, balls hit that hard and at that angle produce an in-play average of .593.
In his third plate appearance, Bradley drilled a ball to straightaway centerfield that pinned Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon at the base of the centerfield fence for an out. It jumped off the bat at 101 mph with a launch angle of 29 degrees. Willman noted that balls hit that hard with that launch angle had yielded hits 67 percent of the time.
Don’t blame Farrell. Don’t blame Bradley. Don’t blame anybody or anything. That’s just baseball, man. I know Bradley’s made it look really, really easy over the last month or so, but Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, once said, “I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball.” Riding a 29-game hitting streak, Bradley hit two balls in his 0-for-4 night that have been hits for major league hitters 60% of the time, and roughly 70% of the time, respectively. For as much skill as it takes to play the game, sometimes it comes down to luck, and that’s something that can be a hard pill to swallow for players and fans alike.
It was a hell of a run for Bradley, so instead of looking for someone to blame as to why the streak is over, can we just be happy that we got to see it happen? And not only that, but can we be happy that Bradley is playing at such a high level of performance, a level that a lot of us never thought we’d see? It’s exciting times, Red Sox fans. I know we’re used to having plenty of things to be pissed off about, but this ain’t one of ‘em.