This isn’t what the Mets, Jay Bruce and Mets fans envisioned.
No one figured Bruce would hear boos or him striking out four times, but that was the case last night in the Mets’ 9-4 victory over the Phillies at Citi Field. It was so bad that the Mets decided not to show his stat line during last night’s game in the Citi Field jumbotron when he batted in the seventh inning.
Bruce has played more like Jason Bay than Yoenis Cespedes since he was acquired from the Reds on Aug. 1. He hasn’t done much for the Mets.
In 22 games the new Met has played, he has hit .160 with a .244 on-base percentage, .272 slugging percentage and .516 OPS. He has homered twice, and he drove in six runs. He has struck out 23 times. His WAR is – 0.4.
There was no question Bruce was going to have an adjustment period. He is coming to a market that lives and dies with every pitch after playing in small-market Cincinnati. It had to be a culture shock to a player to come to a market that expects production every game. In Cincinnati, fans accepted the Reds would rebuild, so there were no expectations from any of the Reds, so Bruce could play his game.
After striking out four times against the Phillies, Bruce is pressing. He is focusing on hitting home runs on one swing of a pitch rather than ratcheting up a pitcher’s pitch count or working a walk. It was obvious from watching last night’s game when he was hacking at every pitch.
That’s why Bruce was booed in his four plate appearances. Fans want to see him play smart, and he’s not doing that right now.
It got so bad that several folks from the Citi Field Sheas crowd chanted “WE WANT DILSON” when Bruce had his fourth strikeout in the seventh inning. That was in reference to the new Met being acquired from the Reds for Dilson Herrera, who is toiling in Louisville (Reds’ Triple-A affiliate).
Booing Bruce can’t possibly help his confidence right now. It will make him press even further.
Fans don’t want to hear it. Not when they are paying for expensive tickets and food. Not when they are traveling by car.
To Bruce’s credit, he hasn’t complained about the fans. He knows it’s a no-win battle if he even dares to utter anything about the fans booing him.
All the former Red can do is keep on grinding at-bats and start getting base hits. If he does that, home runs will come.
It takes 100 at-bats for a player to get into a groove. Last night was his 81st at-bat as a member of the Mets. One can say he is still finding his way. That’s the only the card he can use to justify his struggles.
Also, Bruce is a streaky hitter. He is going to have his good streaks and bad streaks. That’s what he was defined as a Reds player.
The problem is there is not much time for Bruce to get it together. There are 34 games left in the season heading to tonight’s game. He has to figure it out now.
Who knows if Bruce is going to figure it out? That’s why everyone is concerned. It’s not helping that he is thinking too much at the plate.
Bruce already had a mental day off last Saturday against the Giants. It was a chance to clear his mind from baseball. It hasn’t helped him much.
It’s hard for Collins to give his struggling hitter another mental day off since there are not many games left in the season. At this point, playing is the only way Bruce will snap out of it.
The new Met knows what to do. He can’t approach tonight’s game or tomorrow night’s game the way he did last night. He has to make adjustments. He can’t be playing like a pull hitter as he did last night.
He should take notice at what Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera did in last night’s game. Reyes and Cabrera each had two hits by hitting the ball to the opposite field. That’s the only way he can figure it out.
It’s up to him to make the adjustments.
Either he does it or he plays his way to the bench in Mets’ September meaningful games.