One of the constant questions I get is ‘Where did you get your nick from?’ The other ones, if you were wondering, are ‘Who is that in your avatar and what is he holding?’. Obviously you’ve never seen Worf hold a tribble. But if you have, then you would know those things are not what is in my avatar. It is none other than Montgomery Scott, from old school Trek. And what is he holding in his hands? The answer to that, like all things in life, is whiskey. And don’t worry, I’m already advocating to Rudy for a Star Trek character page for all of us to link to. Thank me later. Anyhow, where were we? Ah, yes, the origination of my Razzy call-sign. Its really not that hard to decipher. Let’s just say that it was given a long time ago, in a state far, far away. And it was given because when I do things, in all aspects, I do them very, very wrong. And the reason all of this got brought up is Jay Bruce seems to be on pace to strikeout 209 times and only hit 18 homeruns. You certainly wouldn’t call that Jay Right, so let’s find out if we should start calling him Jay Wrong after the jump.
Did you jump? Did you like my internet jargon to describe clicking on the link to continue reading this post? Did you like me using the word ‘jargon’? I enjoyed all of these things quite well, so really, I can’t tell you how much I don’t care about what you think. Your expectations are quite low on my list of things to take notice of, and you know what? Jay Bruce seems to share that same trait. The only difference here is that I am joking and Bruce, apparently, is not. The reason he most likely does not care for your expectations is that he’s never lived up to them. Just to give you an example, after his age-21 rookie campaign of going 254/314/453 with 21 homeruns, there was certain ‘expectation’ to improve on that. In fact, there were some who compared Jay Bruce to the next Barry Bonds. I’m serious. Now, don’t get me wrong, hitting 21 homeruns in just 452 PA’s is not something to scoff at. In fact, that’s quite good, especially when you factor in his age. But fast-forward five years, and nothing much has really changed.
So now, after continually drinking the tears of all of us who thought a 280/350/520 with 40+ homeruns player was a coming around the mountain, we just kind of settled for who Bruce became. And that is a source of good power and good power only. You certainly are not drafting him for his 7 stolen bases or his .250 batting average. (Well, you might be, but then I would say you’re doing it wrong.) And of course, there is nothing wrong with targeting an automatic 30-homerun guy, especially in the current run-environment. In fact, wouldn’t you like to see GIFs of said power? And wouldn’t you like to see GIFs of said power, as reenacted from a scene in Breaking Bad? Of course you would, cause that’s what I do.
Bogdan: “Um, Walter, I’m short-handed, I’m going to need you to do some wipe downs.”
Bogdan: “Are you here to work or to stare at the skies?”
Walt: “Ef you Bogdan! And your eyebrows!”
Walt: “Wipe down this!”
After all that GIFness and Walterness and eyebrowness, one should ask, and if one does not ask, I will, ‘When does it become wrong to draft a power-only guy?’. Well, when he stops hitting for power, that’s when. Cool story bro. Yes, I will admit that statement does seem quite simpleton in nature and form, but it does illustrate an important point. That all things end. And while we may not be at the end, we *might* be near a period where Bruce is transitioning out of his peak power years. Are the strikeouts the cause? Is he just unlucky? Is this all nothing? Let’s explore those possibilities.
The first issue I’ve noticed with Jay Bruce is that I don’t trust people with two first names. Why? Kevin James. Just saying that name conjures up images of multiple fat-falling/tripping, and uncontested groin shots from all kinds of different angles and objects. Secondly, and more importantly, the data this season is not meshing really well with what Bruce has done in his career. So far, we have his BB% at 6.1, which has dropped 3.7% from last season. And it’s also important to note that we now have a three-season trend of his BB% getting worse, dropping a total of 4.6% since 2011. Naturally, on the flip side, his K% has risen to 29.6, up from 24.5% previously, and rising a total 5.8% from 2011. When you explore his plate discipline a bit deeper, you’ll notice that he’s lost some contact ability. True, sitting at a Contact% of 71.7 when your career number is 73.8% isn’t some crazy outlier. But when you notice that the change comes mainly from Bruce’s Z-Contact% dropping a 6.3 off his career norms, well then, that raises an eyebrow. Making contact in the zone is a good thing. Bruce is doing the opposite right now.
You know what else is a good thing? That when making contact, doing it with power. So far this year, on all homeruns and flyballs, Jay Bruce, on average, has hit them for 288.19 feet. For context, that is 86th best in the league. What was it last year? 292.42 feet, good for 52nd. If you are telling me that is a negligible difference, this is me agreeing with you. In fact, the six homeruns he’s hit so far this year have an average distance of 407.8 feet and average speed off the bat of 106.3 MPH. Last year, Bruce hit them out at an average of 402 feet with an average speed of 103.9 MPH. So don’t worry, don’t do what you were thinking you were gonna do, which is, you know, FLIP OUT! The power is still there. And I bring this all up because even though the power is still there, there is some kind of stifling going on that has nothing to do with falling out of his peak power years.
So far, we have Bruce’s contact and plate discipline spoiling a bit, but his power is still, I don’t know, fresh? Cooked well-done? Deep-fried? I got in trouble like eight words into that metaphor. But what is holding him back, I mean, really changing the dynamic here? Well, his batted ball profile is kind of screwy. More line drives and less flyballs shows that the hits he elevates are being caught and not caught, but not going out of the ballpark. And the ground balls and increase of line drives that are being hit is fueling the luck-dragon called BABIP. Right now, his BABIP is sitting at .380, roughly 130% higher than his career number of .296. So obviously, the .280 batting average will come down.
Add the fact that Bruce generally is a very streaky player to begin with, its difficult to come to some sort of rock hard conclusion on what his stat page is telling me at this moment. The most worrisome aspect, losing some of his power, is not from injury nor age, but from issues with contact and discipline. These things still have time to change somewhat, more on the discipline side of things, so you could actually come to the conclusion that Jay Bruce is a player who is both lucky and unlucky at the same time, which makes my head want to explode.
Moreso than any other player I’ve discussed, I’m going to have to depend on my gut a bit more here than usual. His profile has some problems, but, at the same time, not unsolvable ones. And being a streaky player also plays a part here. After all, we are talking about a guy who has hit .375 with 5 homeruns in the last two weeks. So, with all this knowledge, I’m still somewhat a believer. I think a player can, in this case, both improve (power) and get worse (batting average), and still end up close to what we expected (250/30), but with somewhat deflated production (more K’s and less BB’s). I know, my head is still wanting to explode.
Suffice to say, the whole kitten kaboodle will regress, and ROS, I would expect Bruce’s AVG and BABIP to go down, but while the BABIP is lowering, line drives will start turning into flyballs, towards his career norm, which will then turn into homeruns. Did you get all of that? I certainly didn’t. So I’m going to say he produces 55/22/63/240/5 on top of the stats he has now, which actually puts him on course for a somewhat normal year. I’d still hold in redraft leagues, but if there’s a need, trade him during the current hot streak. Otherwise, expect what you did when you drafted him at the beginning of the year, but just a little bit less in all areas.
For keeper leagues, it gets a bit sketchy, especially when power is the first thing that will go in his skillset. But he’s not 36, nor is he 29. I’m guessing for the next couple of years, this 26-year-old will be okay. But the plate discipline and contact trends are something to keep an eye on, and could be his eventual downfall. You could say I’m sort of in a holding pattern, and would still expect 75/25/85/250/5 as a good starting point, with an equal chance of a possible outlier above or below, depending on the luck dragon. But there is risk here, I have to mention that.
Jay Bruce will never be the guy we thought he would be, but chances are pretty good that he’ll end up being the guy he already is, for this year and beyond. And in more important news, the nick stays mine. There can only be one!