Jay Bruce (The Enquirer/Michael E. Keating)

I don’t know whether you know it, but baseball’s appeal is decimal points. No other sport relies as totally on continuity, statistics, orderliness of these. Baseball fans pay more attention to numbers than CPAs.” – Sportswriter Jim Murray

This game is wrapped in the numbers, batting stats, pitching stats, attendance numbers, payroll numbers, stadium costs, free agent prices, years played, years without wins and years awash in losses. Like it or not numbers are the blood in the body of this game, they pulse through it, they invigorate and stir the interests of many, touching each person who loves the game.

Even those who claim not to be interested in the numbers are prone to citing a number every now and then.

Numbers to baseball are what the Periodic table is to chemicals, they are entwined, they are as one. However they do sing a different tune to each person they come across. I’m stuck on numbers this week, for it is my leagues Strat-O-Matic draft and if you ever played Strat you know it’s a percentage game; it is a game that demands that you pay attention to the odds, and thus know and pay attention to all the numbers.

Thus I find myself thinking about numbers and odds and well… Jay Bruce.

Bruce has about three weeks left until he is no longer 23, and yet in his brief life he’s already had over 1400 plate appearances in Major League Baseball. This number is exactly ½ of what former Red Juan Castro has been able to compile in SIXTEEN seasons in MLB.

This number of course triggered this thought: how many players as old as Jay Bruce have compiled 1000 PA’s? Do you think that we can safely say that if a ballplayer is 23 and has 1000 at bats he’s going somewhere? Perhaps, the majority of the time, but make no mistake there have to be guys like Ellis Valentine and Sean Burroughs on this list so it can’t be all steak and lobster.

To start off this discovery, I focused in on when the game became “organized,” which was of course in 1876 when Ulysses S. Grant was President and Coca-Cola was ten years from being invented. In short, it was a long time ago when the game first came to the “organized” professional ranks. Thus, on April, 22 1876 Tchaikovsky completed his “Swan Lake” ballet and later that day the Red Caps of Boston beat the A’s of Philadelphia in the 1st game in National League history. Since then 532 players have compiled 1000 PA’s before the age of 24.*

*(This search is non pitchers only!)

I decided to look at three eras, Pre-WW2, pre-Divisional play and since then. I — of course — made this decision based on whim, as I often do when looking at the game’s history.

• 1876-1945 – 260 pre 24 year olds garnered 1000 ab’s (49.3% of total and an average of 3.9 a year)

• 1946-1968 – 82 players had 1000 PA’s prior to their 24th birthday. (15.5% of the total and around 3.7 players a year average)

•1969 until 2010 – 185 players have had 1000 PA’s by age 24 (34.7% of the total and around 4.3 per year)

How big a slice of the total pie is this group of 23 year olds (and younger)? Let’s look at the base, how many players in the history of the game have had 1000 PA’s? At the end of 2010, 3411 players had at least 1000 PA’s in their MLB career; the percentage of players under the age of 24 (532)who had 1000 PA’s is 15.2% of the 3411.

In that 15.2%, we find Jay Bruce; in essence, he is at the top of his class, and from what we have seen on the field he’s he’s delivering sooner than many of the other players. Of course, getting to the plate is one thing, producing is another. To enhance this exercise more, we’ll look at the runs created per every 27 outs, and we’ll see that 55.4% of the under 24 crowd had a RC/27 vs. the league that was average or above average. One of these players is Bruce.

To get a sense of the weight of this list we can look at the top players and there we’ll see that the list is top-heavy with the best hitters in the history of the game. Most of course have ridiculous numbers, 3 are from the 19th century, and Ted Williams and Joe Jackson sit at top like the kings they were.

Ted Williams               8.07    13.38     5.31     2613     
Joe Jackson                6.96    11.72     4.76     2044      
Pete Browning              5.82    11.41     5.59     1157     
Stan Musial                5.01     9.47     4.45     1953     
Bob Caruthers              4.61    10.78     6.17     1146     
Ty Cobb                    4.54     8.45     3.91     3081     
Albert Pujols              4.25     9.39     5.15     2036     
Arky Vaughan               3.96     8.93     4.97     2480      
Jimmie Foxx                3.94     9.42     5.48     2567    
Joe Kelley                 3.91    11.11     7.20     2145

Meanwhile let’s see where Bruce is…. Number 243 out of the 532 Jay Bruce is in pretty good company too:

Positions 237-248

Travis Fryman              0.30     4.70     4.40     1584      
Dave Winfield              0.30     4.78     4.48     1289     
Billy Butler               0.26     5.28     5.02     1510     
Ray Chapman                0.25     4.42     4.17     1178     
Milt May                   0.24     4.65     4.40     1068     
Les Mann                   0.24     4.42     4.18     2305     
Jay Bruce                  0.21     5.16     4.95     1412     
Clyde Milan                0.20     4.04     3.84     1822     
Andre Dawson               0.20     4.79     4.59     1318     
Derek Jeter                0.20     5.51     5.32     1453     
Pie Traynor                0.18     5.42     5.24     1352     
Garry Templeton            0.18     4.78     4.60     2240

To clarify this I looked at the total number of Reds players who have had 1000 PA’s prior to their 24th birthday. Just focusing on players who started after 1969, we can find only three, a small number for a franchise that has been producing hitters consistently for over 40 years

PLATE APPEARANCES   	 PA      RC/G        
Adam Dunn             	1431     1.53      
Jay Bruce             	1412     0.21         
Dan Driessen          	1166     0.63 *

*BTW in this search I found something that shocked me Dan Driessen played more games as a Red than HOF Edd Roush!

Add in his outfield defense and Jay Bruce is already looking like a special player and having already locked him up the Reds can expect him to keep producing. As fans, we can only hope as well. However, as we know, nothing in life is for sure (except death) and I’ll toss this out in parting: Junior Felix is on that list too.