StaTuesday: Bradley Jr.’s defensive prowess, big bonus for Brewers

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Jackie Bradley Jr. has been one of baseball’s best defenders since 2018 — it’s hardly a secret — and the Milwaukee Brewers are counting on his addition this season paying dividends, hopefully, in the form of a championship run.

The longtime Boston Red Sox center fielder joins an already stacked Brewers outfield that consists of Avisaíl García, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. All four are expected to play meaningful innings.

Bradley Jr. is the one out of the bunch, however, that stands near the top of the list of players who have turned balls hit their direction into outs since 2018. The only outfielder ranked above him is his former teammate, 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, who now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fangraphs RZR (which measures range) since 2018 (min. 500 IP in OF) 

PlayerRZR
Mookie Betts.948
Jackie Bradley Jr..947
Harrison Bader.942
Alex Gordon.938
Ender Inciarte.938
Max Kepler.937
Manuel Margot.935
Billy Hamilton.931
Lorenzo Cain.930
Kevin Kiermaier.929

(Note: All of the above had more than 2,000 innings.)

Cain checks in at the ninth spot on this chart, and understandably so, he won a Gold Glove in 2019.

Bradley Jr.’s also the only center fielder since 2018 to record multiple seasons ranked in the top-10 of Fangraphs’ Revised Zone Rating — the same metric mentioned above — that tracks “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out.”

PlayerYearRZR
Cody Bellinger2020.973
Luis Robert2020.969
George Springer2020.966
A.J. Pollock2018.964
Jackie Bradley Jr. 2020.964
Ramon Laureano2020.962
Kevin Kiermaier2020.952
Kevin Pillar2018.952
Harrison Bader2019.952
Jackie Bradley Jr.2019.947
Ender Inciarte2018.947

It’s worth mentioning that García sits directly below the cutoff — he posted a .946 RZR in 2020. MLB’s most recent season dominates this list because of its shortened schedule resulting in fewer opportunities for error.

The 30-year-old Bradley Jr. is one of two headliners among Milwaukee’s new-look defense, alongside former St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who joined the team in February.

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The club’s obvious commitment to strengthen its defensive forces will, of course, lend itself to a higher level of scrutiny come the regular season, but if history has proven anything, Bradley Jr. makes tough outs look easy.

Another Fangraphs formula paints the picture even clearer: Bradley Jr. ranks third among all outfielders since 2018 in what’s called “outfield arm runs,” which measures a fielder’s success rate in throwing out runners or preventing runners from advancing bases.

Fangraphs ARM (which measures OF arm runs) since 2018 (min. 500 IP in OF)

PlayerARM
Kevin Kiermaier15.4
Mookie Betts12.4
Jackie Bradley Jr. 11.2
Andrew Benintendi9.3
Eddie Rosario8.2
Kyle Schwarber8.1
Kole Calhoun7.3
Jason Heyward5.7
Harrison Bader5.4
Starling Marte5.0

Essentially, Bradley Jr. has been about as effective as he could possibly be since winning a Gold Glove in 2018.

That award-winning season still dwarfs the rest of the field — it’s the gold standard over the last three years.

PlayerYearRZR
Jackie Bradley Jr.20187.6
Ramon Laureano20196.9
Kevin Kiermaier20206.9
Starling Marte20184.8
Kevin Kiermaier20194.3
Harrison Bader20194.3
Mike Trout20193.2
Jackie Bradley Jr.20193.1
Billy Hamilton20193.1
Kevin Pillar20182.7