Jay Bruce’s up-and-down 2014 season

Jay Bruce is currently hitting .224/.306/.399 with isolated power (ISO) of .175 through the Reds’ first 97 games. These numbers fall well short of his career performance of .254/.328/.475 and ISO .221.

But in thinking about Bruce’s season, looking at it as whole oversimplifies the situation. Instead, it’s helpful to break it into (at least) two parts.

Bruce began the season with a knee injury. He played in 30 of the Reds’ first 31 games and hit .216/.352/.363 with isolated power of .147.

Jay Bruce ultimately decided his knee had worsened to the point where surgery was the prudent course of action. On May 5, he underwent an operation to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee. The Reds initially estimated Bruce would miss a month. Instead, at the end of his 15-day DL stint, Bruce was ready to return to the lineup. He was out from May 5 to May 22, missing 14 games.

In the 41 games since he returned, Bruce has hit .228/.276/.418 with an ISO of .190.

Those numbers are still short of his career benchmarks. Three points stand out.

First, Bruce’s ISO numbers show his power has substantially increased since returning from the surgery. He’s hit three home runs before and seven afterward.

Second, Jay Bruce’s walk rate has run a bizarre course in 2104. For context, his career rate of 9.6% is above the major league average (7.8%) and puts Bruce comfortably between the extremes of Joey Votto (15%) and Brandon Phillips (5.7%). In the first 31 games of the season, when his knee was bothering him, he walked an eye-popping 17.6% of the time. However, in the 41 games since he returned, he’s walked 5.5% of his PA, a rate much below his career norm.

Third, from the period May 23 to July 8, Bruce hit .244/.285/.463 with an ISO of .219. Other than the lower walk-rate, Bruce basically hit at his career level during that stretch of games. Since July 8, he’s been in a slump, with no home runs.

19 thoughts on “Jay Bruce’s up-and-down 2014 season

  1. Part of this slump thing for Bruce over the last several weeks could be related to the fact he was being jacked around in a crash training course to be a sometimes 1B. There are only so many hours in the work day even for these guys; and, time spent learning a new position is time not available for work and personal instruction in the video room or cage.

    But we’ve got Jack on the way.

  2. Is that knee bothering him? That’s my question Man, he looks off-balance and out of whack.

    Unless things come totally unraveled, this guy is a key part of this team’s future. Even if his current line stands up for the rest of the season, I wouldn’t be tempted to move him. I do wish they would bat Mes ahead of him. At least, until this horrible July slump has passed: 148/193/333.

    At best, I see JB as #5 hitter in a decent line-up. He has great value nonetheless.

    • >> Is that knee bothering him? That’s my question Man, he looks off-balance and out of whack.

      next time he comes to bat, watch his hips. And watch his hips when he swings at a pitch that is outside.
      He’s opening up way to much and way too early.
      I noticed this a couple weeks ago and it was either yesterday or the day before the NYY broadcasters also pointed it out.

  3. So much of the discussion over the last 12 hours has been dedicated to Bruce that IMO nothing new has surfaced. He is what he is and the “injury” only exacerbates his weakness’s. All fans love him when he is hot but when he is not some will defend him when he is being what he is and some seem to suddenly find out what he is. I think “Charlotte” described him best ” a sixth place in the line-up hitter”.
    He is young enough to improve but has demonstrated that he can’t (won’t) change. So lets just move on.
    Remember there is always Walt to smack around.

  4. To make room for Schumaker, Soto is optioned to AAA. So, they still have the “extra” reliever. One or more folks in the pen are not fully healthy and available I would surmise; or, alternately there is concern Bailey or Latos might not answer the bell in Milwaukee and a bullpen night could be seen as the best option (Contreras as starter).

  5. I’m not sure what to make of this update on JB, You have found a 6 week period where he hit .244? He is what he is this season, a .220’s frustrating and extremely streaky hitter. Just no real continued “hot” streaks this season. He has turned into the big Donkey with no power.

    • You have to look past batting average, Sparky. You’re really locked in way too much on that stat to the exclusion of everything else like power and on base percentage.

        • Of which I am well aware, which is why I find it odd that Steve would implore Sparky to “look past batting average”. No matter which stats you look at, Sparky’s criticisms of Bruce are still valid.

    • “Hard hit balls”? Seriously?

      This is really reaching for stats to try to show that Bruce is actually having a fine season, despite every single “normal” stat saying otherwise. Anyone who is actually watching Bruce and not just looking for some cherry-picked stats can tell he is not right and therefore cannot be counted on for any kind of significant production.

      • Hey, it’s just something I ran across on Twitter that I thought was interesting. It’s new data. It’s people actually coding every single swing of the bat by every player. There’s data about fewest hard hit balls and pitchers giving up hard hit balls (Cueto is the only Reds starter in the top 60 for that). I’ve never said Bruce is having a fine season and I’m not trying to convince everyone of that. Your protest notwithstanding, the fact remains that of all the hitters in major league baseball, Jay Bruce ranks #25 in percentage of AB that end up with a hard-hit ball. People can make of that what they want. It’s obvious Bruce is making plenty of outs.

        • It is a bit of an interesting stat, but how does it equate to success on the field? Basically, I’m wondering have we reached the point of saturation in statistics to the point where they are becoming nearly redundant. For example, why should we care about hard hit balls when it essentially is the same as BABIP when used in conjunction with ground ball, line drive and pop fly percentages? Why should we care if a line drive was hit hard or hit softly so long as it lands where no one can catch it?

          What are they going to meassure next? Bat speed on swinging strikes on balls outside the zone to try to meassure just how fooled a batter was by a pitch?

    • This suggests what I have been suspecting is actually true — that the extreme shift now employed regularly against Bruce is truly affecting him.

      He needs to drop down 5 straight bunts to third base and fix the shift against himself.

  6. Opinions which differ from that of the OP get deleted? Are they no longer permitted?

    • We don’t delete opinions because they differ from the OP. That should be obvious by the dozens of comments that differ from the OP that remain. If we deleted one of your comments it’s probably because it violated our guidelines for profanity or personal attacks on other commenters, writers or Reds personnel. For example, you can write that Walt Jocketty has failed to make a trade. You can’t call him an idiot or a bum. There were several personal attacks on Reds personnel last night that got swept out for that reason.

      • Mr. Mancuso: Not sure what constitutes a “personal attack” nor what constitutes calling a Red a (blank). If one (i.e. myself) disagrees with the opinions of a commentator, surely that can’t be considered a personal attack. I did no such thing, BTW. I, if memory serves, used the vague, “some others believe that….” verbiage. Something not OK with that?
        I did refer to the Reds RF as the “Texas Golden Boy”. If that’s even an insult it’s pretty mild, no? A bit cheeky, maybe, but not something his clubhouse mates wouldn’t have called him at one time in his life.
        But if my post was deleted by accident, as part of a gross sweep, it’s OK. I just don’t how it was over the line.
        Thank you for your response.

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