COMMENTARY | Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce didn't have a monster first half of the 2013 season, but his numbers were easily strong enough to merit a third consecutive trip to the All-Star game. Given his body of work and his stats, Bruce is much more deserving of All-Star stature than Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Bruce was also a more deserving final vote candidate than Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Based on power production alone, Bruce is an All-Star. Heading into the final game before the All-Star break, Bruce ranked second among NL outfielders with 64 RBIs and fourth in home runs with 18. Among NL right fielders, Bruce is the leader in RBIs and second in homers. Bruce has also scored more runs (52) than any other right fielder in the league. Bruce won his first Silver Slugger award last year and is on pace for another this year.
No other NL outfielder has logged more innings than Bruce, who has yet to commit an error so far this year. His strong arm has become a deterrent to base runners over the years, but he has still thrown out five runners who dared him in the first half, which is tied for tenth most assists among NL outfielders. Bruce's strength in the field may have been overlooked for the All-Star game selection this year, but he's quietly putting together the kind of defensive year that will warrant a Gold Glove by season's end.
More Deserving All-Star Than Bryce Harper
Harper missed more than a third of the first half of the season due to injury, so his offensive numbers don't compare to those of Bruce. Harper has produced a higher number than Bruce this year in errors: Harper is tied for fifth most errors committed among NL outfielders despite the limited playing time. Bruce is already a seasoned veteran in his sixth year and deserves more respect from the voting fan base for his ability and production than a virtual rookie with solid rookie numbers but definitely not All-Star stats.
The start to the careers of both players may have undertaken a similar trajectory as young phenoms, but Harper has yet to achieve to level of Bruce (34 HRs, 99 RBIs) or prove he can improve year-to-year the way Bruce has by hitting more home runs and RBIs in each of his first five years. Until Harper sustains his progress, he just hasn't earned in hype what Bruce has earned on the field since the latter debuted at the age of 21 in 2008.
More Deserving All-Star Candidate Than Yasiel Puig
Other than a torrid start to his major league career, there's no valid statistical reason to position Puig as a potential All-Star ahead of Bruce or any outfielder who managed to start more than half of the first half of the season.
Puig and Bruce do share this similarity: both had torrid starts. In his rookie year of 2008, Bruce was hitting .457 after the first 46 at-bats of his career. Puig last had an average over .450 at 66 ABs into his big league career. Puig will have a successful rookie season if he finishes as well as both Bruce and Harper did in their rookie seasons, but the idea that Puig should or could be an All-Star ahead of Bruce disregards the accomplishments of an outstanding player who should be better embraced for the approach he has for the game and the success he is having this year, as well as over the course of his career.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds' season here.
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