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Jay Bruce: Cincinnati Reds Right Fielder Hitting His Way into MVP Debate

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds waits to bat during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

The Cincinnati Reds are closing in on the National League Central crown, and Jay Bruce is working his way into the discussion for National League Most Valuable Player.

Will Bruce really be considered when the NL MVP vote takes place?

Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News mentioned the possibility of Bruce getting votes, and it is not a crazy thought.

The award goes to a player with big numbers. Check. Players on a first-place team get more attention. Check. 

While he can go through some long slumps (a pair of 0-for-19 streaks this season), he can also go on an absolute tear.

 

Numbers Don't Lie

The 25-year-old is on pace for the best offensive season of his career.

His 31 home runs trail only Ryan Braun in the NL, and his 91 RBI are fourth in the league. He is only one RBI behind the San Diego Padres' Chase Headley and Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals. Of the top four run producers in the league, Bruce has the fewest number of at-bats.

Bruce does not rely on hitting home runs, and his 66 extra-base hits are tied for second in the league behind Braun. The power numbers are there for the entire season, so he deserves credit for producing.

Since being given two days off in mid-August, Bruce has been on fire. 

He is hitting .345 in his last 22 games, and he has started to drive in more runners. During that stretch, he has 10 home runs with 24 RBI. 

With Joey Votto out since July 16, Bruce has been the only left-handed hitter in the lineup. It makes it easy for managers to bring in a southpaw to pitch to him late in games. However, the official Twitter of the Cincinnati Reds tweeted an impressive stat over the weekend:

@jayabruce's 34 homers the last 3 seasons off LHP are the most by a LH batter.

— Reds (@Reds) September 2, 2012

 

The left-hander is also a very good defender with a great arm. His defense helps limit runners on the bases and saves runs. 

In the past four games, Bruce has single-handedly carried the team on offense. The All-Star has driven in seven of the team's past nine runs. He has a game-tying long ball and a game-winning home run in the past few games.

Clutch numbers should also come into play when looking at the league's Most Valuable Player. When games are close and late (according to MLB.com), Bruce's five home runs are tied for third in the majors. 

The Cincinnati Reds went 33-16 without the 2010 NL MVP, so somebody on the team deserves to get some attention in this year's MVP voting.

When the Reds win, Bruce has 24 home runs and 73 RBI. Those numbers show how valuable he has been to his team.

Bruce has played nearly every game this season, and he is producing at the plate.

 

The Competition

In the first half of the season, Votto and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen were battling for the NL MVP. Votto fell out when he hit the disabled list.

McCutchen is still one of the leading candidates, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are falling out of contention. Pittsburgh is 11 games behind the Reds in the NL Central and trail the Cardinals by 2.5 games.

The center fielder is batting .347, but he has a .250 average since the beginning of August compared to Bruce's .290. He also has dropped off in terms of run production. His two home runs and 17 RBI are a major drop from his production during the first half of the season. 

 

The 25-year-old has 24 home runs and 83 RBI this season, but his hopes rely on his team's success. If the Pirates reach the postseason, McCutchen will likely win the award.

With the recent surge of the Cardinals, Holliday has worked his way into talks for the award. He is batting .305 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI on the season. He has 12 home runs since the break, and he has been a big reason for St. Louis taking over the lead for the second wild-card spot.

Holliday will be hurt be Carlos Beltran's success this season. Beltran carried the team in the first half, so he may take some votes away from his teammate.

Only one other player in playoff contention should be considered for the award at this point. Buster Posey continues to carry the San Francisco Giants offense, and his team currently holds a 4.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

The catcher is hitting .328 this season and has 19 home runs with 85 RBI. He has also handled a good pitching staff on the field, so he deserves credit for his all-around play. Posey has the highest average on the active roster, and nobody on the team comes close to his production.

 

Conclusion

While Bruce's .261 average needs to improve for him to win the award, the rest of his numbers are deserving of recognition. 

McCutchen will be the leading candidate, but he may fall out of the race if the Pirates continue to struggle. If that happens, the award will be up for grabs.

Cincinnati's right fielder is having a career-best season in 2012. Although he is not the leading candidate for the award, he can improve his numbers in the final month of the season.

Bruce is known for going on hot streaks, and he is currently on one. He needs a big September to work his way into the NL MVP debate, but the two-time All-Star is more than capable of carrying his team into the postseason.

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