The “bench Jay Bruce” movement that has quickly gained momentum among the Mets fan base and the mainstream media is truly baffling to me. I am aware that he has posted a .192/.271/.315 slash line in 144 plate appearances since he joined the Mets at the trade deadline. I am aware that the Mets are in the thick of the Wild Card race and every game matters. But do Mets fans really want Terry Collins to demote Bruce to equipment manager for the final 16 games and have Michael Conforto play everyday? That’s what the masses are calling for right now. To me that’s insane.
I’ve said this since the day he was acquired. Jay Bruce is a streaky veteran slugger like Lucas Duda. Bruce, like Duda, has long droughts at the plate where he looks lost and then all of a sudden he unexpectedly delivers a power streak. Duda hit like .187 last year in June with one homer. Then in July he still hit under .200, but he went on one of his signature homer streaks and put 8 balls into the seats. And in August/September he mashed posting an OPS near 1.000. The Mets put their faith in Lucas and his homer streaks, and they are doing the same thing with Bruce. They are hoping that a prolific slugger with a track record will ultimately catch fire in the final two weeks of the season and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
I love Michael Conforto, but he’s done absolutely nothing this season that would justify giving him the bulk of the playing time in September over an established major league slugger that’s hit 20+ homers for 9 of his 10 major league seasons. This is a man who in 2016 will probably hit 30 homers for the fourth time. It would be one thing if Conforto was compelling the Mets to start him with his bat, but he hasn’t done a damn thing. And the team has managed to score runs lately against weak opponents despite Bruce’s black hole in the lineup. With our weak schedule, Bruce will have every opportunity to break out against poor pitching.
I suppose it’s not that shocking to see the fan base grow impatient with an established veteran. I’m often one of the first people calling to bench people. In July I was ready to take away ABs from Neil Walker. But the Mets ended up sticking with Neil and he turned his season around (before his back injury).
The bottom line is I don’t think you bench a guy like Bruce because he’s had a poor 100+ ABs with a new team. And furthermore, it’s a little late for the fan base to abandon ship on the live by the dinger die by the dinger, feast or famine strategy. This team was built on the backs of many streaky power hitters (Walker/Duda (before their injuries), Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, even Yoenis Cespedes to some extent). The Mets will either pitch and slug their way to a playoff spot or they will strike out trying.