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Jay Bruce

Is Jay Bruce Really That Bad In Right Field?

NY Mets right fielder Jay Bruce is known for his slugging. He averages 30 home runs and 95 RBIs every year. He’s been doing that for his entire 9 year career, like clock-work. But when it comes to fielding, the general consensus seems to be that he is really bad. How bad? Let’s look at some of his defensive stats.

The Good

Last year, splitting time between Cincinnati and New York, he led the National League in assists by a right fielder with 10. He’s had 8 seasons in the top 10 for assists by a right fielder. He has a strong, accurate arm.

Looking at his overall career numbers in right field, Bruce is 6th among active players for Range Factor/9Inn. Which is computed as 9 * (Putouts + Assists) / Innings Played. He’s behind Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton, Ichiro Suzuki and Shin-Soo Choo. But he’s surprisingly ahead of players like Jason Heyward and Hunter Pence.
Another fielding metric is Total Zone Runs. Which is computed as the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. Jay Bruce has had 3 seasons ranking in the top 10 in the league. He is 6th among active players. Although he’s far behind Ichiro and Heyward.

The Bad

Combining his time with the Reds and Mets, Jay Bruce had a -8.8 UZR/150 in right field last year. FanGraphs defines UZR as putting a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof). UZR/150 is defined as UZR runs above average per 150 Defensive Games. At -8.8 Jay Bruce is between “Below Average” and “Poor”, but closer to the “Poor”. For a Mets comparison, Curtis Granderson had a -2.7 UZR/150 in right field last year. Which is between “Average” and “Below Average”.

The Ugly

Here’s where it gets ugly. Bruce’s Defensive Runs Saved or DRS, which is calculated by the FieldingBible, was -11 last season. Easily the worst of his career. Only Detroit’s J.D. Martinez was worse in right field for 2016. Mookie Betts led right fielders with a 32. Adam Eaton, then with the WhiteSox and now a Washington National, was second with a 22. Even Curtis Granderson scored a 2.

Jay Bruce and the NY Mets Outfield

Jay Bruce is not on the Mets for his fielding ability. They have been playing him at first base while Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores were both injured. But he might be heading back to right after yesterday’s injury to Cespedes. Other than Juan Lagares they don’t really have a great defensive outfielder. Yoenis Cespedes, when healthy, should be in right field because he has by far the best arm. Granderson should play left field, because he is 36 years old and has the weakest arm. Michael Conforto deserves regular playing time, preferably in a corner outfield spot. But he may have to wait until next season for his own dedicated, full-time spot. Both Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson will likely be gone in 2018.

Photo by slgckgc