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Jay Bruce Hot Streak Predictor


Joe Robbins

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
June Swoon 5/30-6/21 .238/.262/.375 84
Road Trip Revival 6/22-7/5 .378 .442 .595 43
Fireworks Funk 7/5-8/17 .212/.254/.280 126
Harvest Time 8/18-10/3 .385/.467/.868 107
2011 The Slow Start 3/31-4/26 .226/.290/.357 83
May Bruce 4/27-6/8 .340/.407/.687 168
June Swoon 6/9-7/5 .143/.217/.226 92
Independence Jay 7/6-8/17 .317/.411/.608 141
The Slow Fade-out 8/18-9/28 .204/.312/354 170
2012 The Slow Start 4/5-4/18 .191/.216/.426 51

May Bruce 4/19-5/29 .294/.359/.595 142
[NO STREAK] 5/30-7/2 .255/.352/.480 122
Fireworks funk 7/3-7/28 .167/.277/.319 83
Happy Homestands 7/29-9/9 .331/.400/.748 155

The Slow Fade-out 9/10-10/3 .149/.213/.230 80
2013 The Slow Start 4/1-5/7 .246/.296/.345 152

May Bruce 5/8-5/31 .313/.364/.688 88
[NO STREAK] 6/1-6/12 .279/.304/.465 46
Home Run Heaven 6/13-7/1 .319/.360/.739 75
Fireworks Funk 7/2-7/21 .196/.270/.304 63
Road Trip Revival 7/22-8/9 .302/.357/.603 70
??? 8/10-today .200/302/.236 63

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.