Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

We can have a great debate about who the best hitter in baseball is right now.

Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich has been absurdly good, Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers has somehow been even better, and Mike Trout is still Mike Trout.

But let there be no debate about who the worst hitter in baseball is right now. That dubious honor belongs to Jackie Bradley Jr.

And there isn’t a close second.

That’s not hyperbole, that’s not some kind of hot take, that’s a fact. The stats don’t lie.

Bradley’s putrid .148 average is the third-worst mark among qualifying hitters in baseball. His abysmal .406 OPS is the lowest in the game by far. His .182 slugging percentage is also the worst in MLB.

There is no justification for his inclusion in the lineup every night. Alex Cora needs to act.

It’s time to sit Bradley down.

Apr 2, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) reacts after striking out during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley’s defense is outstanding, but his glove isn’t good enough to keep his bat in the lineup right now. Nobody’s glove is good enough to justify a .400 OPS.

The only acceptable .148 hitters in baseball pitch. Last time I checked, Bradley doesn’t do that.

The Red Sox value defense, rightfully so, but strong outfield defense hasn’t prevented them from opening the season 13-17. J.D. Martinez playing the field won’t make them any worse.

In fact, Bradley’s subtraction could help the Red Sox elsewhere in the field. It would give Cora the option to lock away Rafael Devers’ glove for the time being.

Devers is a disaster at third base and has the second most errors in baseball (8). If Bradley is out of the lineup and Martinez plays outfield in his place, Cora can easily have Devers DH and play Michael Chavis at his natural third base.

Better infield defense, worse outfield defense, and no Bradley in the lineup? Seems like a good tradeoff to me.

But it probably won’t happen.

Cora has shown no willingness to take Bradley out of the lineup. He seems prepared to let Bradley try and hit his way out of his slump, hoping that his centerfielder finally finds one of those hot streaks he has been known to go on throughout his uneven, sometimes spectacular, yet frustrating career.

It’s possible that Bradley will turn it around, but the Red Sox are seven games out of first place as the calendar turns to May. There may have been some margin for error in years past to let Bradley hit his way out of his slump, but that’s not the case this year.

The time has come to sit him down.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.