NEW YORK -- As the season circled the drain, the course of action became clear: With nothing at stake in terms of wins and losses, the kids had to play, even if they looked ill-suited to handle the big leagues. The result? A horrendous performance: a .118 average, .200 OBP, and .191 slugging mark, an OPS+ of 7. The conclusion seemed obvious enough, based on both that horrendous performance and two years of Triple A futility: Jose Iglesias could never hit enough to permit his glove to play at the big league level.
Except he did. In 2013, Iglesias proved a key contributor to both ALCS entrants, hitting a combined .303/.349/.386 for the Red Sox and Tigers. It seemed an unsustainable fluke on the basis of what seemed like five infield hits a week. But that ability – make contact, run like crazy out of the batter’s box, beat a throw – has proven surprisingly enduring. Iglesias, in 95 games for the Tigers this year, is hitting .313/.355/.396. As for his glove – suffice it to say, it plays.
This is all germane in light of the natural and reasonable reaction to Jackie Bradley Jr.’s offensive performance. He looked bad in striking out in his first plate appearance on Thursday, dropping his average to a cool .100 (5-for-50) and extending his streak of futility to 15 straight at-bats with five strikeouts.
But despite the horrific numbers, there have been at-bats where Bradley has shown something he didn’t for most of 2014: A good swing, the ability to make hard contact to drill the ball to the opposite field, the ability to handle mid-90s velocity.
And on Thursday, for the first time in August, Bradley saw his approach actually net results. He went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks against the Yankees, with one walk coming against lefty CC Sabathia and the other coming off of lefty Andrew Miller, the two free passes sandwiching a single off a 96 mph fastball against lefty Justin Wilson.
At the end of the game, Bradley emerged with a .118 average – the same mark carried by the overmatched Iglesias in 2012 – along with a .238 OBP and .176 slugging mark. Maybe Bradley – who joins Dan Uggla and Jeff Mathis as the only position players in the majors who are amidst their third straight season of sub-.200 averages in the big leagues – will never figure out how to hit enough to start in the big leagues, a concern that manager John Farrell articulated on Wednesday. But there is at least one recent precedent to suggest he has a chance, with a game like Thursday’s offering a reminder that a rush to judgment is unnecessary.