COMMENTARY | When it comes to both home run power and run production, the candidate field for NL MVP is centered around five sluggers: Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies, Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies, and Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds.
Of this field, Goldschmidt tops the list heading into August 11 because he leads the league in RBIs (91) and is tied for most home runs (27). Brown has solid power numbers (26 HR, 75 RBIs) so far but plays for a losing fourth-place team and missed some time due to injury. Alvarez was tied with Goldschmidt with most homers but is batting just .236 with a sub-.500 slugging percentage and ranks just seventh in the league in RBIs. Gonzalez tops the league in slugging (.591) but plays for a losing team and just can't seem to stay healthy enough to realize his full MVP potential.
Bruce has steadily performed all season in the fifth spot of the Reds' batting order, and he has a history of streaky explosion that could vault him above the field of sluggers if he is able to put an exclamation point on the rest of the 2013 season.
Bruce was the NL leader in extra base hits heading into August 11 with 57. He ranks fifth in the league in homers (24) and fourth in RBIs (79). His 32 doubles are second-most in the league. Trailing Goldschmidt by just three home runs and 12 RBIs heading into the final 50 games, Bruce is in a perfect position to pad his extra-base hit lead and make a run at the league lead for homers and RBIs, especially with the return of Reds former cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick expected to return from injury and hit behind Bruce in the sixth hole.
Reds Country has grown accustomed to the peaks and valleys of Bruce over his six big league seasons. There are times when he hits everything and hits it hard, then there are other times -- often prolonged -- when he looks lost at the plate.
Through the first seven games of August, the lost Bruce has shown up (.167), but as the Reds continue their finish to the 2013 season, the team will undoubtedly hope that Bruce will spark a hot streak -- much like the streak he rode to conclude the 2010 season, in which he batted .338 over the last two months with 15 blasts and 29 runs knocked in. If Bruce repeated his 2010 finish in 2013, he would post a solid line (.293/ 37 HR/ 103 RBIs). That in and of itself could challenge Goldschmidt for tops in the NL in the power department, but if Bruce was to revive his success in the last two months of 2010 this year, the numbers would actually be even more impressive.
Bruce started only 35 games in the last two months of 2010. If Bruce was to start all 53 games for the Reds' final two months of the 2013 season and hit at the rate he did for the finish of 2010, his line would be much more MVP-like based on 3.8 at-bats per start: .298/ 44 HR/ 118 RBIs.
Reds Country has been teased by the full potential of Bruce, and it will take the realization of that full potential for Bruce to win the NL MVP in 2013 and carry his team to another postseason berth. In each of his first five seasons with the Reds, Bruce has hit more home runs and driven in more runs with each season. Bruce finished 2012 with 34 homers and 99 RBIs, which was just enough to earn Bruce the 10th-most vote points in the NL MVP ballot last year.
If he tops his totals from 2012, Bruce will fare better in the MVP voting for 2013. If Bruce finally realizes his full potential and shatters his career-bests in power production last year, he'll win the NL MVP.
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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- Jay Bruce
- Cincinnati Reds
- Paul Goldschmidt