CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The Indians did not add at the trade deadline, but when the need arose, they added after it.
In the indefinite absence of left fielder Michael Brantley and the continued absence of right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, the team had a positional need. Not to mention an offensive one.
Though the Bruce addition was made to fill the holes created by Brantley and Chisenhall, the newest member of the Tribe outfield has out-performed those he is filling in for in some regards.
The 30-year old’s 2.1 fWAR is higher than that of Brantley (1.4) and Chisenhall (1.8), though he has played at least 14 more games than either. His .847 OPS is higher than that of the combined Indians outfield at .787, while his 29 home runs are just nine off.
Chisenhall has been the team’s second-best hitter behind Jose Ramirez, but in a part-time role, not only making multiple trips to the disabled list, but platooning right field with Brandon Guyer, Austin Jackson and Abraham Almonte.
As far as cumulative numbers go, Bruce will walk into the visitors’ clubhouse in Tampa Bay as the Tribe’s new leader in round-trippers, as well as runs batted in. His wRC+ (121) and wOBA (.355) will instantly rank third among Indians with 100 games played behind Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion.
As a matter of fact, Bruce and Encarnacion have essentially been the same player this season, statistically.
Encarnacion’s wRC+ (122) and wOBA (.356) are just a singular point higher, but while the 34-year old has a much higher walk rate (15.2% compared to 8.8%), Bruce is having more success with balls in play. The lefty slugger’s .524 slugging percentage is a good deal improving upon Encarnacion’s .464 mark.
The most encouraging part about the acquisition may be the timing, as Bruce is having arguably his best season since 2010, his third year in the league. He is currently carrying a career-high 42.9% hard-hit rate, a number that has increased each year since 2014 and sits north of 40% in a season for the first time.
The power-hitter’s groundball rate is at a career-low 32.1%, while his fly-ball rate (48.3%) and HR/FB (19.9%) numbers are his second-highest in any season.
Bruce is doing all of this on a .274 BABIP, below his career average, meaning that there is a lesser chance for regression.
Normally regarded as a liability in the outfield, Bruce is also carrying his highest defensive metrics in years, including seven defensive runs saved.
Ultimately, the Indians have improved upon the positions they sought to replace, and all for the low price of a former 30th-round draft pick sitting in A-ball.