I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Yankees Opening Day yesterday. Despite the 8-2 loss, I found it to be a great overall experience. I would recommend every baseball fan to attend Opening Day at least once. My perspective towards the game is a lot different than it was when I was a kid. You see, I used to be one of those Yankee fans that hated every team that came to play the Bronx Bombers. Now it's completely the opposite. Some may call it maturity, I just like to say my appreciation for the game has grown.
I'm going to say in about 2008-2009 I really began reading stories online about baseball. This is where I picked up on sabermetrics, which furthered my understanding for the game. By doing this I learned about value and what players were overpaid, and others who were steals.
For instance, Evan Longoria was an absolute steal for his production. Longoria didn't make a million dollars until 2011 when he was paid $2 million. Longoria was a 7 WAR players for two years straight in 2009 and 2010 before getting paid. I only make this point because it's how I became fascinated in the up and coming players of the game.
So, with that I tell of my findings about a phenom named Jackie Bradley Jr. You are probably all aware of his amazing spring and other credentials. Now you must be wondering how he played in his debut. I was sitting in the left field bleachers, so I was able to get a solid view of Bradley's glove. For his hitting I had to see the highlights to see more details, but overall I have a solid idea of his first game.
Let's dig in, beginning with Bradley's fielding. First off, I watched him shag fly balls during batting practice. He certainly has some enthusiasm out there. I witnessed him attempt to rob Pedroia of a batting practice home run in left.
In the game I saw a lot of things I liked. On a fly ball that landed in the seats, Bradley was off at the sound of the bat hitting the ball. He covered a ton of ground in a short amount of time. If there was more room out on the left field side, I'm sure he would have laid out and snagged the ball. Overall Bradley has some nice speed and great reaction time.
Bradley used that incredible speed to make a web gem in the bottom of the 3rd inning against Robinson Cano. Cano surely would have had extra bases and a RBI. Yet, Bradley raced toward the warning track and turned while leaping slightly to rob Cano of a hit. When I arrived home I wanted to check how big a factor Bradley played in the Red Sox win, so I checked FanGraphs WP Graphs. As it turns out, Bradley was the Red Sox team leader in WPA at .108.
As for at the plate, Bradley did well despite being going 0 for two in five plate appearances. Remember, batting average can be misleading. In five total plate appearances Bradley reached base three times via the walk. In Bradley's first at bat he walked after being down 0-2 against CC Sabathia. This was his defining at bat of the game to me. I was very impressed in how he battled back to reach base and continue what was a big inning for the Red Sox.
As for his only negative plate appearance of the day, Bradley was struck out quickly. He once again dug himself into a two strike hole. This time Sabathia made Bradley pay by striking him out. I noticed Bradley gets into a lot of two strike counts. If this continues, Bradley could have a lot of strikeouts against good Major League pitching. This may just be an overreaction to a really small sample size, but it's worth noting.
Overall, I see Bradley's Opening Day being a microcosm of the rest of the regular season. He's going to play excellent defense in left and he's going to get on base. If Bradley keeps getting on base, the Red Sox may have to move him into the second spot in the lineup.