Christopher Soto - Support Case To KEEP Jay Bruce

As we approach the final month of the pre-season, the Mets find themselves still being the owners of left handed power hitting OF Jay Bruce. Alderson’s acquisition of Bruce back in July of 2016 was a two-fold approach to solving the club’s lack of hitting. A) The move was intended to lengthen the line-up by adding another power hitter to “protect” Cespedes. B) The move was an insurance policy for 2017 just in case the club was unable to re-sign Cespedes. Bruce’s contract had a 2017 club option attached that would allow the club maintain the same power capabilities going into 2017 as they had going into 2016.

The plan above was a perfect win-win scenario for Alderson. Unfortunately, Alderson and company mis-fired on two fronts in the scenario. 1) No one expected the Mets to sign Cespedes so easily and 2) In the weakest free agent class in over 5 years…..Bruce fell into the 1 player category that had plenty of inventory…..power hitting, low average, low WAR calculation outfielders. Now it seems like the club is stuck with Bruce….However…..such a problem is perhaps a good thing. In fact, the club should WANT to keep Bruce for the entirety of the 2017 season. Here’s the reasons why…
Power is Under-valued but Still Useful

Despite Bruce’s horrendous performance in a Mets uniform…..he did manage to finish 2016 with his 4th 30+ HR season in his career. In addition, while his pace of HR slowed down as a Met, he still managed to produce a run rate that would give him 26 HRs in a full season of crappy play. Sabermetrically speaking, Bruce is not as horrible as his line with the Mets suggest. Even though he was striking out at a 3% higher rate as a Met….his Hard Hit Contact ratios were in line to his time with the Reds.

The combination of Bruce, Cespedes, and Lucas Duda gives the Mets a trio of players that can all eclipse 30+ HRs. In the last 15 years, only 19 teams had a line-up that produced 3 or more 30+ HR hitters. What was the average record of those 19 teams? That would be 91 wins, 71 losses. In addition, 18 of the 19 produced winning records and 13 of those teams made the playoffs.

Bruce is a better RF than Granderson

Let’s preface this first…..Granderson is a superior fielder to Bruce….however, when it comes to the position of RF; arm strength is weighted more heavily in the analysis than at the other 2 OF positions. Despite being a lumbering mess, Bruce possesses one of the better cannons in the league. Over the past 6 seasons, Bruce is actually 3rd in the MLB with 60 total OF assists. Only Alex Gordon (72) and Gerardo Parra (64) have thrown out more runners. If you want to be more recent, (prior 3 seasons) Bruce is in the top 8 of runners thrown out.

Any defensive liabilities that Bruce may create from a range perspective are zero out by this improvement in arm strength. In addition, his range and fielding liabilities are also mitigated by the fact that the club has one of the Highest K% rotation in baseball which means less balls in play for the OF to potentially boot. Not to mention that the club will also be carrying defensive wizard Juan Lagares on the roster in addition to solid OF defenders in Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto for late inning replacements.

Bruce Helps Terry Balance the Line-Up vs Righties

One of the more undersold weaknesses of the club in 2016 was their hitting production against Right Handed Pitchers. The club was Top 10 against lefties but against righties they finished in the bottom 10. In 2016, Bruce had a pretty significant platoon split, displaying his ineffectiveness vs lefties with a measly .678 OPS against. Against RHPs though, he posted an OPS that was almost 200 basis points HIGHER at .872 OPS. If Bruce can get back to his normal production…that .872 OPS is going to significantly boost this team’s effectiveness against the righty heavy rotations of the Nationals, Phillies, and Braves.


Reese Kaplan said...

I think people are quick to judge based upon his poor audition. Does anyone remember the lackluster first years of Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson? It is possible to adjust, particularly when you're playing in your free agent walk year.

The only issue I have with an outfield of Cespedes, Granderson and Bruce left to right (aside from defense) is what it would do to the potential development of Michael Conforto. With Granderson, Bruce and Duda all in the final years of their contracts, it's important for the Mets to know what they really have in Conforto. Towards that end I really wish they'd find a trading partner. My preference is for Granderson to go, then Bruce, then Duda, but one should leave and open up a less pressured situation with some protection than might be facing Conforto next year when it may be just he and Cespedes being the only offense.

Mack Ade said...

All I know is this guy was leading the league in RBIs when he came to the Mets.

Is that a bad thing?

Tom Brennan said...

Hey Chris, good to read a Soto article again, and as always, you make important analytical points.

I like Reese's solution. Grandy being traded, instead of Bruce, removes some of the risk of a guy (Grandy) suddenly plunging in effectiveness due to advancing age. Bruce, Conforto, Lagares and of course Cespedes would be a very good foursome. I'd be shocked if Conforto does not rebound strongly in 2017, and very much hope he spends the full year in Queens.

Chris, one "correction": Bruce is not just a "a lumbering mess (who)possesses one of the better cannons in the league." He is a multimillionaire lumbering mess. I wish I could be called that!

Tom Brennan said...

Mack, great point - let's recall how Grandy's RBI output, given his homer production, was historically awful. Good guys can still be awful.

Anonymous said...

The Mets outfield is a mess right now.
We have a LF, Cespedes, that belongs in RF but refuses to play there.
We have a RF, Granderson, whose arm plays much better in LF.
And we have the only true CF on the bench and a very promising youngster in Conforto without a position to play everyday.

The way I see it the Mets have 2017 to make it to the WS with this team intact. If Harvey has a strong comeback year, he will need to be traded since he will not sign an extension and the Mets will not pay enough to make Boras Happy.

In 2018 the Mets need to make a commitment to their young players and keep them in the lineup. This means Conforto, Rosario, Smith, Flores, TJ, Lagares, etc. They need to get cheaper in order to be able to afford the rotation of aces.

Just for fun, can someone project Flores numbers if he were the 2B. He had 16 hrs, I believe 30 or so extra base hits and 59 rbi's in 300+ at bats. (doing this from memory so double check). What would the numbers look like for a full year of 550 at bats and how is that not desirable for the Mets for a mere 2M?


Tom Brennan said...

Viper, you can't really project Wilmer that way - he REALLY struggled early on in 2016 as he got very sporadic playing time. If you project his hitting after shaking off that slow, sporadic start, he really hit well. Over 550 ABs on that later period, he'd reflect some big stats.

Tom Brennan said...

Viper, took a quick look at Wilmer from June forward last year - 247 official at bats: project those #'s over 550 at bats and you get 33 homers, 24 doubles, 104 RBI, and .291 from Wilmer. WOW, right?

bgreg98180 said...

From what I remember, Flores historically starts slow, even down in the minors.

Erratic playing time, jumping around the order, and changing positions can be a factor that extends the slow start production.

That Adam Smith said...

Not a bad thing at all, Mack. Now all the Mets have to do is get Joey Votto to hit in front of him. :-) Hope you and the Mrs. are both doing well.

Mack Ade said...

Adam -

ALL my attention is currently on Mrs. Mack.

Beginning the radiation process tomorrow.

That Adam Smith said...

One of the things that drives me crazy about Terry is his sub-par management of playing time and the raw deal he gives young players, setting them up to fail more than to succeed.

That Adam Smith said...

Blessings to you both.

Tom Brennan said...

I echo Adam on that, Mack.

Mack's Mets © 2012