A New Swing for JBJ

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Jackie Bradley Jr. was drafted by the Red Sox in 2011.  When Bradley was initially selected out of the University of South Carolina he came with some hype.  JBJ was drafted in the first supplemental round, which made him the 40th overall selection.  Jackie Bradley was coming from a baseball program that had won National Championships and he was a key reason why.  I can remember being very optimistic about the Sox picking him when they did. 

Photo courtesy of fantraxhq.com
But his tenure in Boston has been a roller coaster ever since his debut in 2013.  Everyone knows that his defense in the outfield is among the best in the league, but his bat hasn’t been as electric.  As we head into the 2019 season, I am predicting that this year will be the best for JBJ as a Red Sox player.  I am not the only person voicing that sentiment.  Red Sox manager Alex Cora mentioned during the MLB winter meetings that he is most looking forward to JBJ take the next step in his career. 

Last season the Red Sox added JD Martinez (Check out Chris’s JD article on the Syndicate’s website).  Martinez was brought onto the team to anchor the lineup.  He has exceeded all expectations.  JD also brought a hitting philosophy that his teammates gravitated to.  One teammate in particular that had an interest in learning some of Martinez’s ways was Jackie Bradley Jr. 

The two would talk hitting quite often.  But it wasn’t until around the All-Star game where Bradley decided to alter his swing mechanics.  Making a decision of that magnitude midseason isn’t a common practice, nor is it typically advised.  Jackie’s batting average was sitting just around the Mendoza line, so I guess he decided that any alteration couldn’t make things worse.  Martinez put Bradley Jr. in touch with his personal hitting “guru,” Craig Wallenbrock.  Martinez gives a lot of credit to Wallenbrock for making him the hitting machine he is today.  JBJ was all ears.

Since the season was still going on Jackie Bradley could only work with Wallenbrock through video messages and phone calls.  Major changes weren’t possible, but Bradley did use the advice to improve his launch angle.  A batter increasing his launch angle is the game’s newest craze to increase power.  Jackie Bradley started seeing differences right away.  His groundball percentage dropped by 5 percent and he increased his exit velocity to an average of 91.9 mph.  Just these two adjustments can lead to a player unlocking their power potential.

Bradley was advised to record his swing while performing the hitting drills.  That way he could look at the video right away and make any necessary adjustment in real time.  I would have to guess that it worked for JBJ.  Jackie was able to raise his batting average 36 points by the end of the season.  That is not an easy thing to do in the major leagues.  Also, Bradley’s .827 OPS in the second half of the season was a drastic improvement from what Red Sox Nation is used to. 

In an interview in December, Boston’s center fielder said “What I’ve been taught my whole life is completely wrong.  It’s scary to say that, but it’s wrong.  I feel fortunate enough to make it this far doing it wrong.”  That is a strong statement to make considering JBJ was a former round 1 pick and an All-Star in 2016. 

Bradley Jr’s power followed the centerfielder when the 2018 postseason rolled around.  He hit three home runs and had an on base + slugging percentage of .835.  His three home runs were the most in the postseason other than his teammate Steve Pearce and George Springer.  JBJ also walked nine times, and that almost led all players in the playoffs.  I think that the walks speak to his new found comfort in the batter’s box.  

It wasn’t just that Bradley Jr. hit for some pop in the playoffs.  Some of his hits were extremely meaningful.  He cleared the bases with an opposite field wall ball in Game 2 of the ALCS.  A double that I think is safe to say swung the momentum in Boston’s favor.  Remember his grand slam in Game 3?  When the ball went over the right field wall, it gave the Sox a comfortable lead and they were able to keep all the momentum gained the game before.  It wasn’t long until Bradley Jr. struck again.  In the very next game, Game 4, JBJ hit a two run go ahead home run.  Boston never trailed again in the ALCS and Jackie Bradley Jr. was awarded the MVP of the championship series.

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Jackie didn’t set the World Series on fire like he did in the previous round.  But he did have a very important home run.  In Game 3, Bradley stepped to the plate in the 8th inning trailing to the Dodgers 1-0.  He was facing off against LA closer Kenley Jensen.  Bradley took him deep to tie the game.  Now, the Sox did go on to lose that game in heartbreaking fashion, so I think fans have forgotten the dinger.  But make no mistake about it, JBJ showed off some of the improvements that he made when he decided to link up with JD’s hitting coach.  The 2018 postseason could be just the beginning.

After Boston hoisted the World Series trophy, Jackie wasn’t done developing his new swing.  He made two trips to work one-on-one with Craig Wallenbrock in California.  Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers even went with JBJ on his 2nd trip to work with Wallenbrock.  Bradley even went to say that it was a “business decision to invest in myself.”  If he continues to polish his home run swing, Boston fans will be more than happy with that business decision. 

Baseball season is rapidly approaching.  The boys of summer are in Arizona and Florida preparing for the upcoming season.  Fans and members of the media are all waiting in anticipation to see if Bradley’s new approach in the batter’s box will pay off.  Footage of batting practice emerged on Twitter, and it did look like his swing was different. 

In his first at bat of the spring Jackie Bradley hit a no doubt home run.  He absolutely crushed the ball over the right field fence.  Obviously it is way too early to know for sure, but I don’t believe that bomb was a fluke.  JBJ had shown off some of his improvements in the 2nd half of the season last year.  He also proved he could be an offensive weapon in the playoffs.  Why can’t this be the next chapter in Jackie Bradley Jr’s career?

There have been a million players who have made changes with their swing to no avail.  I just can’t shake this feeling that Bradley Jr. is not one of those guys.  I think Red Sox Nation can expect a real break out season for the 28 year old.  This may come as a shock, but I could see JBJ hitting 25 home runs this year.  Sounds crazy, but hey, I did predict the Sox to win the World Series last year. **shrug emoji**


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Boston Sports Syndicate: A New Swing for JBJ
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