Streaky can still be good

Photo courtesy of Jay Bruce (pictured above) is tearing the cover off the ball at the moment. Is his streaky play a good thing?

By Josh Kramer

Streaky and potential are two words that have always disgusted me when it comes to professional athletes.  I realize that professional athletes are human and neither term is necessarily a bad thing.  But in this day and age, they both mean that the player is not “consistently” there yet.  Well as a fan, you expect your guy to “be there” yesterday.  In terms of Cincinnati sports, there is no player that better exemplifies these two words that I hate than Reds right fielder, Jay Bruce.

Ironically, Bruce still does not irritate me and he is one of the fan favorites in Cincinnati.  Back in the year 2007, Jay Bruce was named the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  Bruce was just 20-years-old at the time and had a similar makeup to Bryce Harper or Mike Trout.  The future looked awful bright for the Reds slugger that appeared to have limitless potential.  Upon his MLB debut on May 27, 2008, Bruce went 3 for 3 and immediately won over the city of Cincinnati.  That was then though, and this is now.

The past nearly five seasons have been a roller coaster full of ups and downs.  In the present, we are in the midst of a major up.  During the 23 games since August 12th (not including last night), Bruce was batting .364, with 11 home runs, 26 RBIs, and a .864 slugging percentage.  July on the other hand was a major down.  Despite Bruce’s alarming streakiness, he still is in the midst of the best season of his career thus far.  As a rookie, Bruce hit 21 home runs and had 52 RBIs.  Despite the lack of consistency, his production at the plate has improved each season (21/52, 22/58, 25/70, 32/97).

I liken Jay Bruce to be the MLB version of John Starks.  For those of you who do not know or do not remember who John Starks is, he was a shooting guard for the New York Knicks for the better part of a decade.  Starks could turn in Michael Jordan-esque performances one night, and then play like Luke Walton (the NBA version) the next.  Nobody ever knew what John Starks was going to show up.  Now I am well-aware that Bruce is still only 25-years-old and is far more talented than Starks ever was.  But he performs with the same type of streakiness.

The question though is who is the real Jay Bruce?  Is it the guy who batted .213 with four home runs and nine RBI’s during the month of July (25 games)?  Or is it the guy who was batting .500 with four home runs and nine RBIs during the first five games of September?  Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.  That is why streaky players drive me nuts.

Would you prefer a more consistent Bruce who batted around .270 a month and knocked out around six home runs?  Or would you like the guy who flirts with the mendoza line one month, and then plays like a modern-day Babe Ruth the next?  I personally would prefer the consistent version.  You are entitled to your opinion.  Either way though, Bruce is proving that streaky can still be good as he continues to play a key role on a Reds team looking to play deep into October for the first time in a long time.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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