Position Review: Was Right Really All Right?

Some of the Reds preseason buzz centered around right fielder. Good reason for that, too. During the winter, the Reds locked up Bruce to a six-year, $51 million deal. The Texan as coming off (by far) his most productive season since hitting the Reds roster. All things were looking good for Bruce.

Jay Bruce 157 664 150 84 32 97 8 .256 .341 .474 .297
REDS RF TOTALS 162 88 33 106 10 .258 .340 .470

Well, kind of right and kind of wrong. While the “bottom line” shows that Bruce mashed 32 home runs and drove in 97, you must dissect those numbers. Not too much though. It becomes apparent early in your study. The results…

      12 of those 32 homers came in one month (May)
      33 of the 97 RBI also came in May
      May was the only month where Bruce posted a batting average above .260.

    Get the drift? Bruce, who was named NL Player of the Month for his May 2011 campaign, was really just ordinary outside of that one month. Remind you of anyone from 2010? I leave that answer to you…

    Fans harped on Bruce for the same thing they did with Drew Stubbs…the whiff. Like Stubbs, Bruce will hold a high K% rate, just not as high. It also didn’t help that Bruce seemingly struck out in almost every pressure packed situations, or, when in the clutch. While 158 strikeouts may be too many for some, it does boil down to situational hitting to many.

    Image: brianbaute/Flicker (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Here’s a quick overview of Bruce’s performance in certain situations…

    Situation PA SO K% BA
    2 outs, RISP 103 22 21.36% .211
    bases loaded 24 8 33.33% .150
    on 3rd, 2 outs 43 11 25.58% .258
    Late and close* 143 43 30.07% .246

    Of these “clutch stats” listed, the only one where Bruce hit above his season batting average (on 3rd with 2 outs), but it’s barely above that (.002). In fact, if you go to Bruce’s 2011 splits on Baseball Reference, you will be disappointed when you view the section labeled “Clutch Stats”.

    But there is some good news from Bruce’s overall plate discipline. He’s not completely all about the whiff. In fact…

        Bruce’s BB% for 2011 (10.7%) was 0.6% higher than in 2010 (10.1%).
        Bruce’s K% for 2011 (23.8%) was only 0.1% higher than 2010 (23.7%).

      These numbers are in line with Bruce’s norm as well. His BB/K rate for 2011 was 0.45 while it was 0.43 for 2010, a slight (albeit, very slight) improvement.

      One factor that I felt constrained Bruce was when he was placed in the cleanup spot. Yes, a segment of the Reds fanbase clamored for the move, but I was one that was pessimistic of such a move. I still remain in that mode, too. I could almost see the tenseness in his facial expressions burst through my television as if he was pressing. I prefer him in the #5 slot. I realize some will say it opens a hole, but I also do not fell at this point that Bruce can fill the cleanup void either. And it has nothing to do with the lefty-lefty thing with Joey Votto hitting in the #3 hole.

      The other aspect of Bruce’s game that garners attention is his defense, most notably, his arm. Opponents have raved of its strength for the past couple of years, too. Over the past three seasons, Bruce has recorded double-digit assist in two of those (11 in 2009, 10 in 2011). All good, huh?

      Mostly. He did suffer a slight increase in errors (4) and a decrease in his “range factor”. That did really appear to be the case, too.

      Grade: C. One month does not mark a great year. Bruce needs to find consistency at the plate and limit the extended hot streaks and slumps. I feel he can do that. The defense continues to evolve and sooner or later, teams will not even attempt to run on him.

      Yes, there is still some an abundance of optimism surrounding Bruce; however, I am growing weary of hearing “…and he’s only 25″ or “…he’s still young”. He does now have the better part of four seasons under his belt.

      Position Grade
      First Base A-
      Second Base A-
      Third Base C+
      Shortstop D
      Left Field D+
      Center Field C-
      Right Field C

      To read any of the prior reviews, click on the position within the grade card.

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      Tags: 2011 Reds 2011 Season Baseball Cincinnati Reds Jay Bruce MLB

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