Bruce is Now Trending!

And most of the trends are on the positive side of the ledger. Take last night’s game for example. We can no longer say that Jay Bruce has not hit a home run on the road. Yep, all taken care of now.

Bruce doubles during the 2nd inning of last night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Vincent Pugliese-US PRESSWIRE)

Heading into tonight’s game against the Pirates, Bruce is the Reds triple crown leader: home runs (8), RBI (18) and batting average (.304). If you go to who sits second in these three categories, you have Ryan Ludwick (HR – 3) and Joey Votto (RBI – 15 and batting average – .282). No question Bruce has been on a massive roll. But I got to thinking…

Why is anyone even pitching to Jay Bruce?

Think about it for a minute. We talk and write all the time about how team’s avoid Votto’s bat by pitching around him. Why isn’t the same true in the case of Bruce?

You can bring in all the arguments you want about Votto being more consistent. They are true. You can also say the Votto can beat in more ways than with his power because he has no fear in driving the ball the opposite way. That is also true. You can add that Votto can beat with more than just a home run. True. Votto does lead the NL in doubles.

All logical. Bruce isn’t considered nearly as proficient as Votto in these areas. Still, Bruce must feel like he’s seeing a beachball these days. But I hearken back to the last series on the season’s first road trip. I’ll set it up a bit.

I recently talked about the difference in Bruce while hitting at GABP versus on the road. Something clicked while the Reds were on their last road trip. Skipper Dusty Baker sat Bruce the middle game of the series in Chicago. Paul Maholm was starting and Bruce has had a rather dubious history against Maholm. Since that game, here is what Bruce has done…

In those 10 games, Bruce is hitting .417 (15-for-36) with 5 HR and 12 RBI. He has also scored 9 runs, showing an improved SO/BB ratio of 6/5 and even swiped two bags.

What’s a little more crazy is how Bruce is doing it.

According to Fangraphs, Bruce is seeing less four-seam fastballs and more breaking pitches.

Season FA% FT% FC% FS% FO% SI% SL% CU% CH% KN%
2008 54.7 %   1.9 % 0.2 %   1.9 % 12.4 % 12.8 % 15.2 % 0.8 %
2009 46.5 % 3.4 % 2.4 %     1.7 % 19.1 % 10.8 % 15.7 %  
2010 37.2 % 8.8 % 4.6 % 1.3 % 0.1 % 9.5 % 16.2 % 7.8 % 13.6 %  
2011 31.4 % 10.2 % 5.2 % 1.8 % 0.1 % 8.9 % 17.5 % 9.8 % 13.2 % 0.5 %
2012 26.6 % 12.9 % 4.0 % 2.6 %   10.5 % 18.4 % 10.8 % 13.2 %

But there’s even more. Fangraphs also shows us this…

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
2008 32.1 % 71.6 % 50.5 % 56.1 % 81.3 % 72.7 % 46.6 %
2009 30.6 % 67.7 % 47.1 % 58.2 % 87.2 % 76.8 % 44.5 %
2010 28.3 % 68.8 % 46.3 % 50.9 % 86.0 % 74.1 % 44.6 %
2011 29.8 % 69.3 % 47.2 % 52.5 % 86.5 % 74.5 % 44.0 %
2012 26.9 % 67.6 % 46.1 % 59.3 % 86.8 % 78.3 % 47.1 %

Bruce is swinging at less pitches, but his contact rates are the highest they have ever been. Yes, I will temper this as we all know it’s only a month and a week into the season. Taking that into account, if Bruce can stay at these levels, not from a production standpoint, but from a discipline standpoint, the production should naturally progress upward. We’ve seen it already 25 games into the season.

And this is one area where Bruce stated he wanted to improve upon for 2012: having better plate discipline. That will lead to the improved consistency he’s striving for.

A more consistent, patient Bruce will only enhance his game. The numbers show it.

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Topics: Baseball, Cincinnati Reds, Hitting, Jay Bruce, MLB, Reds Hitting

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  • beeker

    These stats bolster the argument for batting Bruce behind Votto. It is time for Dusty to force pitchers to pitch to Joey 4-5 times a game by putting Jay at cleanup, even at the risk of seeing a lefty specialist once late in the game. Having Votto lead the league in walks is not a badge of honor. Opponents are not just pitching around him because they fear him, but also because it is working. (And since Joey hits lefties so well, why is there more to fear from a leftie specialist than any other reliever?)

  • Steven Engbloom

     @beeker Maybe you should tell Dusty. All my calls go unanswered :p

  • Steven Engbloom

     @beeker My calls to Dusty go unanswered. Maybe he’ll listen to you. Bruce isn’t as proficient as Votto against lefties. That would be the only reason we don’t Bruce following Votto in the lineup. That said, Bruce is improving against lefties…
    TY: .304
    2011: .240 (a hiccup?)
    2010: .277 (!)
    2009: .210
    2008: .190
    Career: .236

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