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Updating the Reds All-Time List: Jay Bruce

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In which a power hitter is jettisoned to New York and ungrateful fans in his new home town whine about it.

Bye bye Brucie
Bye bye Brucie
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

JAY BRUCE - #29

Played as Red

Primary Position

Career Rank

Peak Rank

Prime Rank

2008-2016

RF

30

39

34

Percent Breakdown of Value

Best Season

Best player on Reds

Hit

Field

Pitch

2013

Never

81%

19%

0%

Awards/Honors as a Red

Leading the League

On the Reds Leaderboard

All Star -€” 2011, 2012, 2016

Silver Slugger -€” 2012, 2013

N/A

- 7th in career HR
- 16th in career RBI
- 16th in career doubles
- 16th  in career slugging pct
- 21st in career runs scored

Jay Bruce did the Reds a major solid.  We may never know, however, if it was intentional or not.

Bruce, of course, was on the short list of likely-to-be-traded guys, which wasn't all that short a list given how bad the Reds were expected to be.  Nonetheless, the assumption was that Bruce would be a prime trade deadline target, if.  If Bruce continued to bounce back from his horrible 2014...if Bruce showed anything like the bat that got down-ballot MVP votes back in the good years, then some contender would be sure to come calling.

As it was, on the day Jay Bruce was traded to the Mets, he was on pace to post his best offensive season ever.  Then he was traded and it all fell apart, seemingly overnight.

There's a not completely helpful narrative that would suggest that Bruce's struggles were almost entirely related to the city he was traded to.  The big fish in the oh so tiny pond just couldn't figure out how to hit once he got to the most important city in the world, ya dang hicks.  Could be, I suppose.  It could also be that Bruce just randomly went into one of his infamous slumps.  Wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Also could be.

The numbers suggest a slightly different picture.  Jay Bruce's numbers with the Reds in 2016 were (I believe) a function of three separate, but not wholly unlinked, data points.

First, Jay Bruce was a bit lucky.  He had a larger percentage of fly balls leave the yard than at any time since 2009.  Part of that might not have been luck (more on that in a bit), but some of it probably was, and he probably had inflated power numbers as a result.  Hey, sometimes the Reds can get lucky once in a while.

Second, Jay Bruce stopped any semblance of being selective at the plate.  His walk rate, which had been good once upon a time but had been trending downwards in recent years, now plummeted from 8.9% in 2015 to 6.7% in 2016.  Less walks is generally not a good thing, but...

Third, Jay Bruce got more aggressive.  His percentage of strikes looking was a career low.  His percentage of balls swung at nearly a career high.  Take also into account the fact that a higher than ever percentage of hits off Bruce's bats ended in extra bases and we get a certain picture: Swinging more, swinging harder.

This can work in the short term, but pitchers will adjust.

What happened in New York?  Bruce doubled down.  He swung at even more pitches (a whopping 55% of all pitches) but his contact rate dropped, leading one to believe that either he was pressing (plausible) or pitchers knew the new book on him (also plausible).

In short, he was writing checks that he couldn't possibly cash long term, and the Reds were lucky/wise enough to stick the Metropolitans with the bill.

None of which is to suggest that we won't miss the old lug in right field.

In nine seasons with the Reds, Bruce came to plate 5,002 times, hitting .249/.319/.470 (110 OPS+) with 233 homers and 718 RBI.  He was occasionally regarded as an outstanding right fielder.  Bruce climbs from #35 to #29 on the all-time list, and inches up one spot on the team's list of best right fielders, to #2.

Top 15 Rightfielders in Reds history

1

Ken Griffey

2

Jay Bruce*

3

Ival Goodman

4

Mike Mitchell

5

Curt Walker

6

Reggie Sanders

7

Dusty Miller

8

Paul O'Neill

9

Dave Parker

10

Greasy Neale

11

Wally Post

12

Sam Crawford

13

Johnny Wyrostek

14

Tommy Harper

15

Dave Collins