Tha Sports Junkies 101

Bruce or Batman? Mets’ Slugger Could Be Gotham’s Hero



Jay Bruce has gone from being virtually invisible to red hot.  The player he is in October could determine if the Mets win the World Series.

When the New York Mets made the trade to acquire Cincinnati Reds‘ outfielder Jay Bruce, many fans saw the move in the same light as the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes last summer.  The Mets were sitting just four games above .500, but Bruce was the savior that would come in and give the stumbling offense a much-needed shot in the arm.

Or so everybody thought.

Jay Bruce has essentially been the anti-Cespedes since his arrival in Queens.  Bruce’s production basically came to a complete halt when he swapped uniforms.  In 97 games with the Reds, the three time all-star belted 25 home runs while leading the National League in runs batted in with 80.  Unlike some power hitters including Chris Davis and Todd Frazier, Bruce was sporting a respectable .265 batting average deep into the season.  Sandy Alderson and company seemed to have made a savvy trade that would result in an improved offense and another postseason appearance.

It took only a few games for fans to doubt the newest member of the reigning National League champs.  Bruce started his tenure with New York going just 8 for 50 with only 5 runs batted in.  To Bruce’s credit, it is difficult to drive in runs when nobody is getting on base; the entire Mets‘ lineup was stagnant at the time.  Nonetheless, Bruce was failing to produce, and this trend wouldn’t end in August.  Bruce batted a measly .183 with only two home runs and six RBI’s in 93 at-bats.

Fortunately for the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes‘ return picked up the slack for Jay Bruce‘s lack of production.  While Cespedes spent time on the disabled list, New York went just 5-9.  When the Cuban defector returned on August 19th, there was an immediate jolt in the team’s offensive output .  In only 50 at-bats, Cespedes drove in four more runs than Bruce did in the month of August.  The Mets won four consecutive series to end the month of August, keeping them alive in the wild card race.

In his first three games of September, Bruce would tease Mets’ fans by hitting two home runs.  Suddenly, chants of “Boo” were turning to cheers of “Bruce“, and New York was finally getting what they had expected when they traded for the longtime Reds’ right fielder.  Then, as quickly as Bruce had re-established his power, it vanished.  Over his next 40 at-bats, Bruce failed to record a single extra-base hit.

His next home run would come on September 24th against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Once again, Jay Bruce would pull a Harvey Dent and complete flip the switch.  In his last sixteen at-bats, Bruce has seven base hits, three of which have left the ballpark.  In a matter of five games, the outfielder matched his output from the entire month of August.  The Mets appear to be a lock to play in the wild card game where they will face off against the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals.  As his club is looking to make a run back to the World Series, Jay Bruce needs to figure out which player he really is: an intimidating slugger who excels at driving in runs, or a declining veteran who cannot carry a team.

As the title of this article indicates, Jay Bruce can be one of two figurative people this October.  Will he be more like Bruce Wayne; the wealthy Prince of Gotham who sits back and watches other do the hard work?  Or will he be the Mets’ Batman; the strong hero who takes matters into his own hands?  His postseason performance may determine his future in New York past 2016.  Bruce has a team option for $13 million, and the Mets may feel more inclined to bring the outfielder back if he comes through in the playoffs.

Make no mistake about it: Yoenis Cespedes is the heart and soul of the offense.  Ever since he arrived in New York, Cespedes has had to carry the Mets; a tall task for a man who has been nagged by injuries all season long.  Upon acquiring him from Cincinnati, the Mets expected Jay Bruce to take pressure off of Cespedes and provide some pop in the middle of the lineup.  For the vast majority of his time in Queens, he has failed by all measures, accumulating a -0.3 BaseballReference WAR.  However, Bruce has shown brief flashes that he can handle the bright lights of Citi Field.  With the National League Wild Card game just days away, the Mets need the real Jay Bruce.  The Bruce that has averaged 31 home runs and 94 runs batted in per season has to show up this postseason.  Bruce could be the key determinant in the Mets’ success this October.