“Hamilton Sound” Buying Bradley, Jr.
I have been assigned the buy low – sell high column here at Major League Fantasy Sports and we’re on our fifth or sixth go-round with it. To start I have been looking deep at the numbers, pitch types etc., to determine which players to sell and buy. I have to say, much respect to those in this field that do this type of thing. Eight hundred to a thousand words on one player involves hours of research even before putting pen to paper so to speak. ISO, BABIP, plate discipline numbers, velocity, pitch selection and on and on and on. In getting all wrapped up in those numbers I think I am losing what is, to me, the most fun about fantasy baseball … going with your gut.
In doing this column, I read a lot of other writers work at, among others, Fangraphs, Razzball, Rotoballer, and /r/fantasybaseball. In browsing the later site, I came across a comment from a reader that I wished I had saved and wished I could attribute to him (I mean, there’s like a 99.9% chance it was a guy, right?). Anyway, the gist of it is that with the plethora of data out there now and more importantly (to me anyway) the casual fantasy player’s understanding and knowledge of that data, there are no easy buy lows anymore. I am not sure that there is a single player in any of my leagues that doesn’t understand that a low BABIP with all other stats being stable indicates bad luck or that a high ERA, low FIP, and xFIP means that a pitcher has a good chance to lower the numbers that matter to us fantasy geeks. It is truly when things aren’t going right for a hitter and the numbers don’t show an obvious sign of bad-luck that real buy lows present themselves. This situation also presents real risks. This is where the gut-call comes in and moves can be made that can win you a championship … or put you in the basement.
On that note, let’s talk about Jackie Bradley, Jr.
At the start of the year, I said this:
“If you piece together Bradley‘s second half from ’15 (.267/9/3/41/41) and his fist half from ’16 (.296/14/7/51/55), you have a hell of a player. Unfortunately, the first half in ’15 and second half in ’16 happened. Still, though, he ended both seasons with an OPS north of .830. Still yet to turn 27, I think there’s room for a little bit more here. His strikeout rate dropped 5% points, showing that he can adjust and, for the price, I would take the chance that he continues to make those adjustments. There is another reason for optimism if you think that Bradley could move up in the Sox lineup like I do. Pedroia doesn’t like to hit leadoff and with a hot spring, I could see Bradley slotting in there or fifth behind Hanley regardless of what they say about the Panda’s guest appearance on the biggest loser. Bradley scored 94 and drove in 87 last year mainly from the bottom of the order in a stacked Boston lineup. Imagine what he could do leading off or hitting in the meat of the order. I’d say that his predicted ’17 line of .260/25/10/90/80 is, again, a great option for your second outfielder.”
Well … we’re a third of the way through the season and Bradley is sitting on a .226/.322/.444 line with 7 home runs and 2 stolen bases. Not good. The underlying numbers show a mixed bag too. Hard/Medium/Soft Contact looks about the same as last year. He’s hitting a few more fly balls, but the batted-ball profile looks about the same. Plate discipline is also relatively stable, if not trending a bit in the wrong direction. The BABIP of .239 shows some bad luck, but that’s likely the product of hitting more fly balls than normal when fly balls have lower BABIPs in general. So no real, solid indication that anything beyond a slight uptick in average is coming based upon the underlying numbers, which is where the gut comes in. I think Bradley is about to go on a tear.
As I indicated in my write-up of Bradley to start the year, he’s prone to long bouts of shit, but also of long bouts of hitting like Bryce Harper, Jr. In ’15 after his call-up (with admittedly small sample sizes) Bradley posted a WRC+ of -51 in May, 67 in June, -24 in August, followed by a 207 in August. He finished the year with a WRC+ of 121 and an OPS of .832. In ’16, Bradley had similar hot and cold streaks, with WRC+ by month of, April 108; May 208; June 112; July 121; August 70; and September 88. He finished the year with a WRC+ of 118 and an OPS of .835 — in line with what he produced in ’15. In other words, despite the up and down nature of his first two seasons, Bradley has finished his first two years in the league as a well-above average hitter. The valleys are low, yes, but the peaks are that much higher.
Though Bradley’s overall line this year is ugly, there are signs that he is turning things around. Over the last month, he’s quietly put together a .253/.356/.547 slash line with 6 homers. Over the last two weeks he’s hit three homers to go along with a .278/.422/.611 slash line. With the injuries to the Sox, I think a hot streak could land him in a prime spot in the Sox hobbled, though still potent offense. I get it, I know that there’s no way to predict hot streaks, but at some point you’ve got to trust your instincts and my instincts are telling me that Bradley is about to go off. I’m buying.
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