Reds in 2013: Jay Bruce


Not many Reds players are looked at as being a slugger. Some wish to put Joey Votto into that category, but I don’t think that’s a correct label.

With Jay Bruce, it’s different. He is a slugger. I don’t think anyone can say that he isn’t. Ever since Bruce broke into the bigs in 2008, he has increased his power and number of round trippers each season. The same can also be said as far as his RBI.

A pair of All-Star Games, a Silver Slugger (see?), a May 2011 NL Player of the Month honor and five NL Player of the Week honors. That’s a pretty good cover sheet for a guy that has at least four more years in a Reds uniform. He wants to be in Cincinnati forever, too.

Aug. 29, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

If there has been one criticism of Bruce, it has been the lack of consistency. It’s no secret either. Those streaks when he’s hot, it’s almost a foregone conclusion if you throw a pitch anywhere near the plate that he will hit it and the ball will either be smashed or it will be smashed and travel an extreme distance. It’s those times when Bruce is not in one of those patented grooves that brings about the chatter.

Most will point to his season of 2010 when (as you will see), Bruce produced a triple slash of .281/.353/.493. His highest batting average and on-base percentage he has posted other than that year, were the .256 (BA) and .341 (OBP) the following season of 2009. Last season was his highest slugging percentage of his career, .514. Most Reds fans would prefer to see a triple slash that’s a combination of his 2010 for his batting average and on-base percentage along with Bruce’s 2012 slugging percentage.

That would be ideal, wouldn’t it?

Honestly, in looking at Bruce’s career numbers, I believe that’s being a little high in the expectation department.

I have been one that has either been viewed as one that is either overly critical of Bruce and one that is not critical enough. I have made no bones about the fact that Bruce is my personal favorite Reds player either. Maybe these red-rimmed specs I wear are tainted to the good as far as Bruce is concerned.

Well, for 2013, Bill James’ projections (via Fangraphs) believe Bruce will see a slight increase in his batting average and OBP relative to his career averages.

In looking at these projections in comparison with his previous five seasons (yes, Jay Bruce has been a Red for five seasons. Time goes so fast when they’re young…), Bruce will “show” a ever-so-slight increase in BB%, a 9.8% in 2012 and 10.2% projected for 2013, and slight decrease in SO%, 24.5% in 2012, highest of his career, compared to projected rate of 23.8%. Bruce receives much grief in the strikeout circles. Not as much as Drew Stubbs, mind you, but he is the recipient of much.

Based on these projections along with using the Simple WAR calculator, Bruce could produce a WAR of 2.8. That’s for the version for the link provided. On that same page is for another version (v. 1.1) which shows Bruce’s WAR to be 3.1. You might think that’s a little low…then there’s this (also on Bruce’s Fangraphs page)

WAR by season:
2008: 0.9
2009: 1.7
2010: 5.4
2011: 3.3
2012: 2.4

Those that say that Bruce has not shown improvement are, in a sense, correct if you are one that uses WAR as one means of measurement. Well, 2013 should see the trend reverse in a positive direction if the James projections hold to form.

Another set of 2013 projections, CAIRO, which can be found on Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, or RLYW for short, isn’t as positive about Bruce’s 2013. After taking all the necessary information from that set of numbers, Bruce’s WAR “is projected as 2.2 (v. 2.0) and 2.5 (v. 1.1).

In looking at and comparing these two sets of projections and taking his career numbers into consideration, 2013 will be, for some portion, much as what we have seen from Trey Deuce over the past couple of seasons. It is simple: If Bruce can alleviate the extended droughts, he can achieve even more. The more he achieves, the more dangerous the Reds become.

And potentially a greater chance he will hit behind Votto in the batting order…

Here are others in the “Reds in 2013” series…

Joey Votto
Brandon Phillips