On June 2nd of 2019, the Phillies acquired 32 year-old veteran outfielder, Jay Bruce.
On June 4th of 2019, in a completely unrelated and unforeseen incident, the Phillies announced the permanent shutdown of former MVP, Andrew McCutchen — a loss that would alter the trajectory of the club’s season drastically.
Luckily, they had just acquired some semblance of a backup plan.
Since joining the Phillies, Jay Bruce has, arguably, emerged as the offensive MVP of the team — and has stolen the heart of many Philadelphians along the way, myself included. In 29 games with the club, he’s slashed .280/.297/.617 with 29 RBI, meaning that Bruce drives in an average of exactly 1 run per game.
Bruce has also managed to amass 10 long balls in just 107 at-bats — an average home run pace of 1 per every 10.7 trips to the plate. To put this torrid run into perspective; Max Muncy, who lead the National League in HR/AB in 2018, and Khris Davis, who lead the American League, boasted HR/AB rates of 11.3 and 12.0 over their respective seasons.
Sample size aside, this sustained production from Bruce was entirely unexpected.
Obviously, Bruce won’t keep up with this rapid pace throughout the remainder of the season, (though, if he could, we’d remain eternally grateful) yet, his ability to hit like this since joining the Phillies has acted as the saving grace of their current season — especially given the price they paid for him.
When Phillies’ General Manager, Matt Klentak, was first rumored to be pursuing this move, fans became suspicious. Bruce’s hefty contract and scuffling surface numbers were concerning, as he was, at that time, slashing just .212/.283/.533.
However, when the final details of the trade emerged, things began to make sense. The Mariners ate all but $2.75 Million of Bruce’s remaining salary, and all that was required on the Phillies’ end was a 2017 4th rounder — infielder Jake Scheiner.
Scheiner has since been playing with the Mariners’ High-A club, the Modesto Nuts, and is slashing a respectable .280/.315/.508 — yet, he also carries a mediocre 30 K’s to 5 walks.
Back to Bruce, it’s worth mentioning that the veteran has emerged as an important experienced presence within the clubhouse — something the Phillies desperately needed after the loss of Andrew McCutchen to his aforementioned sudden injury. No player in all of baseball could possibly match the enthusiasm, level-headedness, and overall positivity that Cutch provides to his respective team, but Bruce has done an excellent job in terms of mentoring, and fitting in with a supremely young squad.
Ultimately, what we’re getting from Jay Bruce is more than we ever could have asked for. He’s settled in with a fun group of guys, he’s mashing the ball, and, perhaps most important of all, he decimates the New York Mets.
However, when Andrew McCutchen returns next year, it’s likely that Bruce will lose his everyday starting spot. That said, I don’t think a single person can complain about having an impact bat like Bruce off of the bench — especially from the left side of the plate. Plus, we could even see Jay starting a few games here and there when either of Cutch, Bryce, or Rhys need a break.
The trade for Jay Bruce has turned out to represent more than just a move for depth. Bruce has emerged as a key piece to this 2019 Phillies team, and is sure to be remembered as much more than just some bench bat in his time with Philadelphia.
So, here’s to you Babe Bruce — thank you for aiding our Phillies in their time of need. We (I) love you.