A couple of weeks ago, news broke on a Monday evening that the Reds, Blue Jays and Angels were working on a three-team trade that would send Jay Bruce to Toronto. I had opinions about this:
hell yesssssssss don't just get bruce out of my division or my league get him out my damn country https://t.co/wtD6ESjwfP— travis sarandos (@travis_mke) February 23, 2016
I hate Jay Bruce. He is a foul, malevolent demon sent from the blackest depths of baseball Hades, and his singular purpose on this earth is to extract and drink the souls of Brewers fans. Not because he needs to -- Bruce subsists mostly on the still-beating hearts of Corgi puppies -- but because he likes to, like the cliché billionaire in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that lights his comically large cigars with $100 bills. He does it because it hurts you, and because he can.
When the news broke that not only would Bruce be exiting my division, but also my league and my entire country, I immediately hopped on the old Brew Crew Ball New Article Creator, which incidentally is an actual physical piece of equipment I store in my garage and links directly into my brain stem for maximum take synthesis, and happily began crafting my not-so-fond farewell to him.
Alas, it all turned out to be a cruel joke, and just a few hours after the news broke the deal was dead, killed by a medical issue with one of the Blue Jays' minor leaguers in the deal. Can I prove that this injury was a Tony Harding-style hit orchestrated by Bruce to ensure he would remain in the NL Central to continue to feast upon the hopes and dreams of Brewer Nation? Look, presenting convincing evidence of a possible conspiracy without proof is something we would never do on this website, and we won't start now. It makes you think, though.
"But, Travis," I hear you asking, "surely you can't be that upset about Jay Bruce anymore. Sure, he was a pretty good hitter for a couple of years, but he's been god awful lately!"
Oh, I'll feed you, baby birds.
Yes, Bruce's production has fallen off a cliff over the last two years. While his home run numbers have remained fairly steady, his ability to get on base in a manner that sees him staying on one rather than simply trotting past it has plummeted. Last year was on of the worst offensive seasons of Bruce's career, as he hit just .226/.294/.434 (131 hits in, 58 walks, 2 HBP, 9 SF in 580 AB) and struck out in a a quarter of his at bats. After a very disappointing season in 2014, Reds fans were hoping for a bounce back from Bruce last season. Instead, he was again a solidly-below average hitter, especially among corner outfielders.
Unless, you know, he was playing the Brewers. Against Milwaukee, Bruce hit .299/.392/.731 with eight home runs in 79 plate appearances. He hit 31% of his home runs against Milwaukee in just 14% of his at bats, and the huge slugging percentage is basically Barry Bonds in the early part of this century.
For his career, Bruce has torched Milwaukee with a .275/.358/.565 with 33 home runs in 418 at bats. That 12.67 HR/AB rate over his entire career would rank him third all time, behind Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth and just ahead of Barry Bonds. Perhaps worst of all, he has two first names. Never trust a man with two first names. (ed. note: HEY!)
With Bruce looking like he'll be sticking around to torment us for another season, rather than looking ahead to find the next Brewer Killer, we'll look back to find some of the great ones of the past. Of course, the game's best players are obvious -- the Top 10 players with at least 100 PAs against Milwaukee sorted by OPS is filled with Hall of Famers and current superstars: Bonds, Paul Goldschmidt, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Morse (wait what), Mike Piazza, Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Dick Allen and Sammy Sosa destroyed the Brewers, but they destroyed everyone. We're focusing on lesser-known players who always seemed to kill Milwaukee pitching.
Career vs. MIlwaukee: .364/.397/.576, 8 HR in 181 PA
I suppose you think of Coop as Brewers legend, don't you? Over an 11 year career, he hit .302/.339/.470 with Milwaukee, was a five-time All Star and a key piece of the 1982 American League champions. Perhaps we now know why Milwaukee was willing to deal George Scott and Bernie Carbo for the 27-year-old first baseman during the 1976 offseason: Cooper tuned up Milwaukee, collecting nearly a quarter of his career home runs through his first six years in Boston at the Brewers expense. He particularly enjoyed terrorizing Brewers pitcher Jim Slaton, against whom he had a 1.041 OPS.
Career vs. Milwaukee: .342/.410/.640, 10 HR in 134 PA
You see that Top 10 list up there? Guess who's No. 11 on that list. This sonofabitch right here. Over a fairly pedestrian 10 year career, Kubel posted a respectable, if not spectacular, .777 OPS. Against Milwaukee, however, he was a monster. After 6 years with the Twins, Kubel took his talents to Phoenix, in order to obtain additional opportunities to enrage Brewers fans. Whatever Jason Kubel, good riddance ya bully.
Career vs. Milwaukee: .276/.328/.511, 32 HR in 657 PA
Here's a couple of fun facts about Gary Gaetti: he was nicknamed The Rat, because well, you know; he has a freakin' cult in Grand Forks, ND (you're uh...gonna want to make some time to scroll through that); and he absolutely housed the Brewers. Gaetti spent nearly two full decades pounding dingers against the Brewers, spending the majority of his career in the American League before switching over to the Senior Circuit in anticipation of the Brewers attempt to escape him in 1998. Of his 32 home runs against the Brewers, more than a third of them put his team into the lead, and a pair of them were walk-off winners.
Career vs. Milwaukee: .265/.415/.554, 34 HR in 565 PA
Did Adam Dunn sort of crush dingers against everyone? Sure, yeah. Not like this, though. Dunn's .415 OBP against the Brewers was higher than against any other opponent, and six of his home runs against Milwaukee came in the ninth inning or later, ensuring maximum pain. Derrick Turnbow still has nightmares about facing Dunn in the darkest moments of the coldest nights: Dunn was 5-for-10 with three home runs against the Brewers erstwhile closer.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference