It's well know that Jay Bruce has been a streaky hitter. What once seemed like a wacky statistical anomaly is now an accepted part of his game. You can trace it all the way back to his MLB debut in mid-2008, in which he kept a 1.000+ OPS over his first 80 plate appearances and a .500 OPS over his next 80.
I'm not here to debate whether this will be true for the remainder of Bruce's career or whether it somehow makes him a less valuable hitter than his season numbers suggest. I think we probably can take his above-average hitting over the last four seasons at its word.
It does seem likely, though, that the streaking is going to continue into the near future. He's currently on a cold kick that dates back to the beginning of the month.
But is there any way to predict when the streak will break, based on past patterns? Probably not, but I took a stab at lining up the slumps and hot streaks from his past three complete major league seasons (up through the present).
To do that, I divided Bruce's seasons into alternating hot and cool periods. The endpoints are obviously complete arbitrary - anyone can find an infinite number of streaks in a season - but there were a few rules:
- "Streaks" lasted at least 40 PAs (roughly ten games), but no more than 175 (about 40 games) - unless they closed out a season
- A hot streak was an OPS of at least .850, a cold streak was generally an OPS of less than .650
- Cold streaks usually ended (and hot streaks began) with a slump-busting night featuring multiple hits or a HR and often began with an 0-fer
I wanted to see if the dates or lengths for good and bad stretches had anything in common. I also named them so that we can all have a little extra fun:
|Season||Streak name||Dates||Slash line||PAs|
|2010||The Slow Start||4/5-4/17||.146/.217/.171||46|
|May Bruce||4/18 -5/29||.323/.429/.592||154|
|Road Trip Revival||6/22-7/5||.378 .442 .595||43|
|2011||The Slow Start||3/31-4/26||.226/.290/.357||83|
|The Slow Fade-out||8/18-9/28||.204/.312/354||170|
|2012||The Slow Start||4/5-4/18||.191/.216/.426||51|
|The Slow Fade-out||9/10-10/3||.149/.213/.230||80|
|2013||The Slow Start||4/1-5/7||.246/.296/.345||152|
|Home Run Heaven||6/13-7/1||.319/.360/.739||75|
|Road Trip Revival||7/22-8/9||.302/.357/.603||70|
There's a ton of noise here and we'd all get substantially different numbers if we each picked out our own streaks. But there are a few things here that aren't just the result of confirmation bias and cherry-picking:
- Jay isn't always slumping. Sometimes his game-to-game performance doesn't follow any real arc.
- The first 2-3 weeks of a season are always slow for Jay.
- After that slow start, Jay busts out in a big way. It hasn't always synced up with the start of May, but May as a whole is when he does his best work. That's his best split by month.
- There's no real pattern in June and early July, but most of July has always seen a cold streak. The "Fireworks Funk" starts around the fourth and has lasted into August. Including his first two seasons in the bigs, July has been Bruce's worst split (.691 career OPS).
- Cold streaks are almost always less than 100 PAs (average = 91 PAs) and generally shorter than hot streaks.
There's no real pattern to how Jay has finished his seasons, but if we say he's currently about 2/3 of the way through a cold streak (63 PAs of an average 91), then September could be very, very good. That's been his second best month over his career.
If I had to guess, I'd say Jay will slump out the rest of August and get going sometime during the four-game home series against St. Louis that starts September 1. The timing could be ideal. He could even get an early start.