Lineup-dependent number or not, 100-plus RBIs aren’t going to be easy to replace in any MLB lineup, at any given point of the season.
But to have to do it in the thick of a playoff race down the final stretch where every games seems to take on more importance? For most teams, that might just end up being a death knell; yet, that’s the situation that the Cincinnati Reds are potentially facing as they continue their quest to try and steal the NL Central crown from both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
Though they did take a major step forward in the latter, it’s the injury to second baseman Brandon Phillips that undoubtedly has them more concerned because they don’t want the former scenario.
Still, there’s no need for Dusty Baker and co. to hit the panic button yet, and for good reason. After all, the injury to the team’s 101-RBI man is diagnosed as a quad contusion, and while his status is unknown, that the terminology isn’t more severe suggests that his removal in Thursday’s game will not lead to anything more than that … even with second base being the demanding position that it is.
But what if he has to miss a few games and go day-to-day?
Well, the biggest issue for the Reds would of course be to replace Phillips’ run production, and as the team is mostly top-heavy on offense, there aren’t a whole lot of candidates that could realistically step up from the bottom. However, there is a known quantity who is more than capable of coming to the team’s aid should Phillips need to miss time: Jay Bruce.
I know — at 3.0 fWAR and already having hit 27 homers with 90 RBIs, Bruce is already contributing plenty for the Reds, right?
Sort of, I suppose. See, While Bruce was every bit the offensive contributor that Phillips was in the first half, the slugging outfield has hit for a relatively disappointing .766 OPS in the last month with a .235 average. His 0.4 fWAR puts him in a last-place tie with several others for the least valuable player in the lineup in that span.
It’s a significant difference from the 0.9 fWAR from Phillips over the same month, and should the second baseman need to miss any time, the spotlight is likely to go right to Bruce as the player that needs to step up the most … even though that’s not to say that he should be hitting in the no. 2 spot or anything.
Because when he’s on, Bruce is an offensive game-changer instead of just being a productive hitter — and that’s what the Reds need to leapfrog over their divisional rivals.