Bobby Bradley Talks Hitting

Bobby Bradley is both a power hitter and a work-in-progress. Swinging from the left side, the 25-year-old Cleveland first baseman swatted 16 home runs this year in 279 plate appearances, but he also fanned 99 times. At 35.5%, his K-rate was fourth-highest among major league batters with at least 250 PAs. But again, Bradley hits for power. Despite an uninspiring .208/.294/.445 slash line, his 99 wRC+ was a mere tick below average. With further maturation and improved contact skills, Bradley could very well emerge as a force in the middle of the soon-to-be-Guardians lineup.

Bradley talked hitting when Cleveland visited Fenway Park in early September.

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David Laurila: Do you view hitting as more of a science, or as more of an art?

Bobby Bradley: “More of an art. Personally, I don’t look at it from the scientific side; I don’t get into all the data and all that. It’s more something that I take pride in, and I try to take care of my swing. So I’d say that it’s a work of art to me. I obviously haven’t perfected it, but at the same time, it’s like my masterpiece.”

Laurila: Do you have the same swing now that you did as a younger player?

Bradley: “It’s pretty close. For instance, it’s not entirely different from when I got drafted [in 2014]. There are maybe a couple of things, like where I put my hands. I also have a little bit bigger leg-kick now. But overall, it’s pretty close to where I was in high school.”

Laurila: When did the bigger leg-kick come about?

Bradley: “About a year ago, I was playing around with some things, trying to get some timing, and it ended up feeling really good. I got on a good roll around the end of the [alternate] site in 2020, so I thought I would continue it into this year.”

Laurila: Was it self-driven, or a suggestion from a coach?

Bradley: “Completely self-driven. I was just trying to give myself enough time to be able to see a pitch. I did it more so to tell myself to load earlier, so that I could stop my head from moving, and to make sure that I can put my foot down where I want it, and be on time.”

Laurila: You said that it was “a little bit bigger leg-kick.” How does one go about determining the “right” — for lack of a better word — leg kick?

Bradley: “It’s about finding the balance where you can lift your leg without jacking up the rest of your body. If I can lift my leg six inches off the ground without my head moving, that’s what we’re going to do today. If there’s a day where my legs are feeling good and I can lift it up to, say, my knee, and my head isn’t moving… yeah, it’s basically how your body is responding that day.”

Laurila: Have you looked at video in an attempt to gauge success relative to the height of your kick?

Bradley: “We haven’t looked at the leg lift. We look at video more so for hand positioning, or if I’m feeling kind of out of whack, maybe I’m pulling off the ball. But as far as lifting my leg, I am looking at, ‘Is my head moving? Am I shifting back all of my weight on the my back foot, or am I falling forward?’ I want to see if I maybe got disconnected in the hip. Things like that.”

Laurila: You’ve worked with a K-Vest. What have you learned about how your body moves?

Bradley: “I’d say I’m a little bit more rotational. With the K-Vest stuff… I’m trying to figure out how to put this. I guess I’d say that it’s really helpful in learning what intensity to swing at, as opposed to always telling myself, ‘I want to crush this ball.’ Maybe I want to tone it down from 100% to 85-90% and get a better path, versus 100% and spinning off. It’s helped me to learn body control, I guess you could say.”

Laurila: Have you had a tendency to over-swing?

Bradley: “Yeah. It could be like… especially when I came back off the [injured list]. When Boston was at home against us, I noticed it a lot. I wasn’t being as patient; I was trying to get back into it, trying to get back on a roll. It was kind of like, ‘I’ve gotta hit, I’ve gotta hit, I’ve gotta hit.’ I was trying to get my bat to everything that was coming close, and I was definitely over-swinging. I needed to tone things down and get back to a nice simple approach up the middle.”

Laurila: How far have you hit a baseball?

Bradley: “Man, I don’t know. I think I have one this year around 430 [feet] or so. I believe I hit one 457 two years ago. I guess they probably average around 400-420?”

Laurila: I asked that question because of your plus power. You don’t need to try to hit the ball 500 feet in order to leave the yard.

Bradley: “Yeah, it’s like those guys who throw 100 [mph] and want to throw 105. They end up throwing 98 and yanking it a little bit, because they’re grunting and trying to get every ounce of everything they’ve got. Swinging is the same way. As soon as you decide to go 100%, if it’s not perfect, it’s a lot of rollovers or swings-and-misses.”

Laurila: In a recent [Talks Hitting] conversation with Josh Donaldson, I told him that it looked like he’d been swinging out of his shoes the previous day…

Bradley: “I mean, there are times we’re feeling good and our 100% swings are working like our 85-90% swings. There are also certain pitches that validate going all out, especially a middle-middle mistake. You’re like, ‘I’ve gotta crush this ball.’ For me, [the problem] is when I have that intention on any ball they throw up there. That’s when I get myself in trouble. It’s about being selective about the pitches you really want to get after.”

Laurila: That brings us to pitch recognition. You may think it’s a mistake pitch, but if it has nasty late movement, you’re in trouble.

Bradley: “That’s where experience and getting your foot down come into play. I’ve had times where I’ve been getting my foot down on time, and there have been times where my foot hasn’t been getting down on time with that leg kick, and it’s been a lot harder to recognize the pitch out of the hand. I’ll be like, ‘Oh, fastball,’ and then as my foot is going — I’ve already committed to a swing — I’ll be like, ‘Crap, that’s not a fastball.’ That’s when you get that half swing, and that ‘Aaagh.’”

Laurila: You mentioned changing where your hands start…

Bradley: “They’ve been all over the place over the years. When I first got drafted, they started right at the shoulders. At one point, I was down here [around the letters] — that was at the end of Low-A, and in High-A — and then they came back up. They’re right around shoulder height now. So I’ve played with different things, trying to find out what works best for me.’

Laurila: You want rhythm, but you don’t want excess movement. Right?

Bradley: “Yes. I leave a little bit of room to get a little bit of rhythm as I load, to feel some separation with the low leg-kick. I’ve tried putting them right there on the trigger, ready to go. It was like, ‘I don’t want to move my hands; I just want to go.’ But without any movement there, I felt like I was floating in the air. I wasn’t really feeling the separation. I would try to feel some separation, but then I would arm-bar. I would push my hands back, thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to feel that movement,’ but they would be too far back, and by the time I could get a swing off, it was by me. Everything was delayed, coming from so far away.”

Laurila: You hit left and throw right, which means your dominant hand is your bottom hand. Hitters often stress the importance of a strong top hand.

Bradley: “The first thing I do every day is grab a short bat and work on the top hand. That’s to tell my body, ‘This is the hand I want controlling where the bat goes.’ If the bottom hand takes over, then we’re spin-pulling, we’re coming off.

“There are certain situations where you want to pull the ball — maybe there’s a runner on second — and I’ll tell myself, ‘Let’s get the ball to the right side.’ When I do that, sometimes my bottom hand wants to take over and yank, versus me just getting the foot down and catching it out in front with the top hand.“

Laurila: We should address strikeouts. That’s been a knock against you: “Bradley strikes out too much.” How much of a concern is that?

Bradley: “It’s part of the game. You can’t expect a power hitter to bat .500, either. You know what I mean? As long as I feel like I’m doing what I can to help the team… I mean, strikeouts are going to happen. Nobody’s perfect, so they’re something you’ve got to live with. Obviously, you’re going try to minimize them — you want to put the ball in play — but they’re also not the end of the world.”

Laurila: Do you identify as a power hitter?

Bradley: “I feel like I am, yes.”

Laurila: Some guys shy away from that label.

Bradley: “I don’t see myself being the guy that’s going to hit .350 and just get on base. I want to be the guy that drives the ball into the gaps and hits doubles and homers. If the .350 comes, then it comes. But I’m not thinking, ‘I just want to hit this over the shortstop’s head and get on first base.’ I want to put myself in the best position to where I’m either on second base, or I’m jogging around the bases.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Jimmy Kerr, Trevor Larnach, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker,, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Zac Veen, Luke Voit, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Thanks David, interesting conversation! My guess is that Bradley has a very short ML career. Just really hard to be successful while striking out 35% of the time. Someone like Gallo can get away with it because he has mad power, walks a ton, and contributes defensively. But Gallo is the exception, not the rule.

On the other hand, Bradley is Cleveland’s default first baseman for now. Naylor will be out for a while and it’s not like he’s shown much offensively. There’s Nolan Jones who in many ways is similar to Bradley though hopefully with more walks and a slightly higher BA. But Jones only has one career game at first and Cleveland will probably want him to spend more time at AAA. So Bradley it is for now…