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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Razzball preview

I contributed to a Reds team preview for RazzBall a few weeks back, and today they were posted. Here's an excerpt:

1) Jay Bruce. How excited are you about him for 2009? What are you expecting? Feel free to use exclamation points and run-on sentences.

….You know, I’m probably not the best person to ask this. The reason is that, somehow, I’ve never been quite as excited about Bruce as everyone else. The guy clearly has amazing talent, with great ability to hit the ball often, hard, and far. He’s also a solid defensive outfielder with a plus arm. He’s got a great personality, and even has this cool punch thing he does with his left arm to adjust his shirt sleeve when he’s waiting for a pitch. He’s a superstar in the making. But he also is a fairly impatient hitter, walking only marginally more often than Brandon Phillips last year and not a whole lot more in the minors. And he strikes out a lot, mostly because there are times when he’s just up their hacking away at anything. I think he absolutely has an opportunity to be spectacular, and maybe even will do it this year. But it’s also the case that his lack of patience and tendency to strike out (~25% of PA’s in the minors) may make it hard for him to employ all of his talents against major league pitching. Maybe I’m just letting my pessimism about the Reds invade my evaluations of Bruce, though. I sure hope he mashes this year.

Thanks to Grey for the invite.


  1. I think you have more reason to be optimistic about Bruce than your giving credit for. As a Mariners fan, I understand the tendency toward pessimism. However, let me try to brighten your day.

    First, no one that hits like Bruce is going to develop plate discipline in the minors. If they have it when they get there, great. But if not, they're going to have to learn it and that won't happen until the majors, because he was too good to stop swinging in the minor leagues.

    Second, there's some evidence that he will develop some discipline. Take a look at his month by month splits at fangraphs, which you can view by checking out the team month by month splits, and check the plat e discipline stats.

    I'll summarize. From June through August, he was swinging at about 32% of out of zone and 74% of in-zone pitches. As you know, he's not a contact guy (like 71%), so that was pretty bad. Arron Rowand and Matt Kemp are comparable hitters. It's like that every month of the season, except May and September.

    May is too small to count. In September, he shifts and swings at just 22% of out of zone pitches and just 70% of pitches in the zone. His overall contact rate rises to 73.8% He posts a slash line of .265/.351/.573, and just a .269 BABIP, which was certainly luck. I find three pretty good comparables in 2008 for his contact rates in September: Brad Hawpe, Lance Berkman and Alex Rodriguez.

    I know that one month is a tiny sample. However, in the case of contact skills, this is somewhat mitigated since the sample group is pitches, not plate appearances or batted balls. Okay, it would be crazy to run out and say that Bruce learned magically to hit in his last month in his first season in the majors. But there's some call to say that he did show signs of establishing discipline at the end of the season.

  2. That's very encouraging, because his overall 2nd half slash numbers were abysmal.