Aug. 29, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce Must Improve in Clutch Situations

Criticism of the 25 year old is sometimes rampant. Not at the moment – they’re playing meaningless baseball right now. But when the balls and strikes start to count, people will be eagerly watching Bruce, wondering if he’s “finally” arrived.

Depends on how you define finally arriving. He’s homered more than 30 times in the past two seasons, both in which he fell just short of the 100 RBI mark (97 in ’11, 99 in ’12). He has arguably the best arm in right field, in all of baseball.

Jay Bruce is a contributor of a successful Divisional Championship team. But in order to be a contributor for a successful World Series Championship team, he has to improve in the clutch. That’s not just my opinion either. See below the difference for Bruce at the plate in wins and losses.

Game Outcome for Team

Split G PA AB R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG GDP SF BAbip tOPS+
in Wins 358 1455 1270 258 379 90 267 163 304 .298 .380 .579 22 11 .326 135
in Losses 311 1254 1142 105 237 44 109 99 330 .208 .273 .377 16 6 .249 61
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/27/2013.

It’s fire and ice. When the Reds win, Jay Bruce is nearly a .300 hitter. When they lose, he’s hitting just above .200. Bruce bats a pedestrian career .255, but most people will take that with 30-40 homers and 100+ RBIs. It’s not his overall performance at the plate that dramatically affects his stats – his numbers in the clutch cripple them.

We often talk about clutch factors in players. Who rises to the occasion, who do you want up to bat with everything on the line? As of today, you want Bruce furthest from that scenario. His clutch factor is so minuscule, it hardly exists.

Clutch Stats

Split G PA AB H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG GDP SF BAbip tOPS+
2 outs, RISP 293 360 287 56 7 87 70 92 .195 .358 .296 0 0 .261 70
Late & Close 343 478 424 100 21 58 49 141 .236 .314 .443 6 3 .298 87
Tie Game 425 711 625 155 38 94 77 166 .248 .332 .486 8 4 .275 101
Within 1 R 587 1400 1240 294 71 187 138 329 .237 .316 .460 20 10 .262 91
Within 2 R 630 1874 1659 413 90 242 191 441 .249 .329 .470 28 11 .284 97
Within 3 R 642 2170 1927 481 108 289 217 521 .250 .327 .473 31 12 .285 97
Within 4 R 652 2370 2114 532 118 330 228 570 .252 .326 .476 35 14 .288 97
Margin> 4 R 186 339 298 84 16 46 34 64 .282 .360 .530 3 3 .308 119
Ahead 395 984 869 231 50 156 102 225 .266 .346 .501 17 6 .302 109
Behind 411 1014 918 230 46 126 83 243 .251 .314 .464 13 7 .289 91
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/27/2013.

No spin, no slant. When the game reaches a point of pure pressure, Jay Bruce shrivels and disappears. This season, he’s slated to rake in $7.5 million. And where he’s earned every penny, Reds fans have already witnessed what it’s like to pay a guy who amasses 100+ RBIs and hits 30-40 home runs, but offers nothing when they need it the most.

Comparisons aside, Jay Bruce isn’t Adam Dunn. At age 25, one has to believe Bruce has yet to play his best baseball. But this will be his sixth season in MLB and the Reds may not take that next step until he takes his.

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