The Red Sox / Astros American League Championship Series matches up two of the games best teams in a showdown to take home the AL Pennant. Through four games, the series has not disappointed, particularly in last night’s game four, which presented unprecedented plays including a catch that wasn’t, an amazing display of Mookie Betts rocket-arm and baseball instincts, and a game-ending catch that will go down as one of the most clutch players in Red Sox history.
Throughout the series, Boston’s outfielders have been the major difference makers both on offense and defense, but surprisingly, it’s Jackie Bradley’s bat that is making a major difference in a tight series. This article could easily be about the amazing defense of the Boston outfield, but it’s Jackie Bradley’s unexpected timely hitting that we’re taking a look at today.
Bradley is a defensive wiz, and one of the best center fielders in the game. He is not a typical outfield hitter, in fact, this year his 90 wRC+ ranked as the eighth-worst of all other qualified outfielders. Bradley’s.234/.314/.403 slash line hardly inspires confidence that he’d play a pivotal role in an otherwise potent Boston lineup, but truth is often strange than fiction.
Writ-large, Bradley hasn’t hit all that well this postseason, but it’s his timeliness of his hits that is making all the difference. On its surface, Bradley’s .208 batting average looks pretty terrible, however, it comes with six walks (increasing his OBP to .387) and most importantly, two key home runs.
In game three of the ALCS, Bradley stepped to the plate against flamethrower Roberto Osuna having gone a paltry 0-3 on the day to that point. Osuna left a 96 mile per hour fastball in the top of the zone, and that ‘0-fer’ quickly turned into 1-4, with four RBIs, and turned a two-run lead into an 8-2 deficit. The homer earned Bradley a .109 win-probability added (WPA) and cemented the Red Sox victory.
In game four, Bradley contributed even more WPA via a two-run home run he hit in the top of the sixth.
In a one-run game, with the Astros leading 5-4, the Red Sox had only a 26.9 percent chance of winning the game. Christian Vazquez sparked a two-our rally with a double, mostly improving Boston’s chances of a win, but it was Bradley’s timing hit that made all the difference. At the end of the inning, Boston’s win expectancy went up to 61.8 percent.
Should Boston take the series, which history indicates they will do, their outfield should win a collective MVP award. All three outfielders are contributing in ways that we could have expected, but it’s Jackie Bradley’s hitting that has been the most pleasant surprise for Boston.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano