Saying Goodbye to the Myth of JBJ

Sox Nation, time to say goodbye to one of the more (shockingly) polarizing players among the fan base. I can’t believe some people think he’s a great player, or that he is a difference maker for this team. I, for one, am happy they didn’t spend to keep him, and am upset they didn’t trade him coming off his 2018 ALCS MVP performance. Guys like @peteabe were arguing with us they wouldn’t trade JBJ for Jose Abreu…who won the 2020 MVP.

So, why am I so happy? Well, it’s mainly my reaction to many of the negative reactions I’ve seen to this move. Crazy. The Jackie Bradley Jr. “thing ” is the result of relying on the Eye Test, overvaluing some flashy plays, and mistakenly thinking hot streaks will translate to prolonged success. You end up with a myth, which usually manifests itself as “The Best Sox CF of my lifetime”, or “The Best Defensive Outfielder in Baseball”, or something along these lines. You’ve heard of (or maybe even said) them all.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s Offense

JBJ’s last quality offensive season was 2016, when he slashed .267/.349/.486, with 26 HR, 94 R, and 87 RBI. Actually not even a great offensive season, but he was 26, and at that time, an upper echelon defender in center, so that’s pretty damn legit. Now, we probably should’ve seen signs this was a mirage. His 1st half OPS was .926, which dipped to .728 after the All-Star Break. This is where the “Good Half/ Bad Half” myth was born. The sad truth is, he never came even close to replicating that first half ever again. But the myth of offensive potential persisted.

Here’s where Bradley ranked in his last 3 full seasons (we don’t count 2020 to credit or discount anyone) in OPS among American Leaguers who qualified for the batting title:

  • 2019: 43rd out of 54
  • 2018: 48th out of 68
  • 2017: 66th out of 78

So, not average. Not below average. He was basically one of the WORST offensive players in the league, year in and year out. But, hey, at least he was giving you ELITE defense in CF, right???? Tjat’s what makes him special. Well……

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s Defense

I’ve always thought JBJ’s defense was overrated by Sox fans. But he was legitimately elite earlier in his career. But the last few years, he’s been trading on reputation, and a few highlight reel catches. The numbers don’t support it, though.

Here’s how JBJ has trended when using Defensive Runs Saved, which is widely considered the best measure of defensive effectiveness over the course of a season. (0 is average, anything + is better than average) This is his rank among Center Fielders in MLB with a minimum of 300 Innings in CF:

Huge dip the last two full seasons (he was a +5 in 2020, good for 7th out of 20). Since 2018, he’s been hovering around average. Now maybe those numbers aren’t truly represenative of everything he does, but it shows he’s been less effective, while the other top defensive guys are consistently high. Also, JBJ will be 31 next month, so it’s not likely to get better.

THE DEATH BLOW

So far you could argue I’m just a hater. And I’m a nerd for using “stats”. And I don’t understand “baseball”. Well, folks, I’ll defer to a bit of a baseball guy. How about the manager of the team who just signed him, a former player, Craig Counsell.

The “Lorenzo” he’s referring to is Lorenzo Cain. Cain has been considered a pretty high level defender in his own right, but doesn’t get the love of JBJ. And he’s 35(!) next month. So, JBJ is supposed to be this elite CF, but he’s being moved to RF, for a 35 year old Lorenzo Cain?! Let’s see the JBJ lovers argue out of this one.

Safe to say, in the case of Jackie Bradley Jr. …

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