Right Field Lacked Only Production

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Not a ringing endorsement and I know this sounds like the right field position failed the Reds as far as run production goes. To an extent, yes it did.

The bulk of the workload fell onto the ever broadening shoulders of Jay Bruce. He carried that burden perhaps a little better than some may have thought he could. In each of his first two seasons, Bruce was sidelined, cutting his seasons a bit short. Yes, he did endure that “tweak” in his side that left him off the field for about two weeks, but Bruce delivered a good season at the plate. But I’m going in an opposite direction.

Some Reds fans, and the rest of the nation, will predominantly remember Bruce for dropping the line drive off the bat of Jimmy Rollins during Game 2 of the NLDS. If that’s all people wish to remember of the 2010 version of Jay Bruce, they must arise from the baseball ignorance.

In Baseball America, the Reds right fielder was voted by opposing managers to have the second best arm in the National League. The “winner” was Jeff Francoeur, who’s now in Texas with the Rangers. Bruce was also above the league average (.986) in fielding percentage (.992). When you think of the drop, think of the numerous occasions that Bruce has nailed a runner trying to go the extra base or advance on a potential sac fly. Granted, the drop could not have occurred at a worse time, but Bruce is truly among the best in defense.

There are only a couple of drawbacks I have with Bruce’s bat. I would like to see him drive in more runs in pressure situations. When the Reds had a runner in scoring position and two outs, Bruce hit a paltry .188. Yes, it’s nice that he hit .320 with a runner on third and less than two outs, but delivering in the clutch is what will put Bruce over in the eyes of baseball fans. Merely look at his HR compared to his RBI from this past season (25 HR/70 RBI).

No, no one in Cincinnati will ever forget the homer to clinch the division. That’s truly is something to build on. And that is clutch.

But despite setting career marks in every offensive category, it would be nice if Bruce could slightly cut down his strikeouts. He whiffed a total of 136 times in 2010, 130 of those came as the starter. Opponents can look forward to Bruce going down on strikes at least once a game.

When Bruce wasn’t the guy in right, Reds manager Dusty Baker turned mostly to Chris Heisey. Although Heisey was excellent in spelling Drew Stubbs in center, the cannot be said for his days in right. While batting .344 in replacing Stubbs, he fell off significantly to a meager .176 when filling in for Bruce. He doesn’t posses Bruce’s arm (who does?) or his fielding ability (.957).

For 2011, Bruce does not have a whole lot of things that need improving. The issues I’ve covered can come with maturity and “coachability”. Being only 23, Bruce certainly has that room to grow.

Overall Grade: B