Jay Bruce battled Cliff Lee for an eventual walk in his 7th inning trip to the plate last night. If you didn’t see the plate appearance, you missed Jay Bruce fall behind 0-2 and draw the eventual walk, fouling off 6 pitches in the process. It was Bruce’s first unintentional walk of the season, and it came off a left-handed pitcher. Though, it was not just any left-handed pitcher, but a left-handed pitcher who hadn’t walked a batter since September of 2012. Lee had faced 169 batters over his previous 45 innings without issuing a free pass.

How many of us thought Bruce was a foregone strikeout when he fell into that 0-2 hole? How many thought before Bruce left the on-deck circle that he was going to strike out? I quote one of our frequent commenters, WVRedlegs, not to call anyone out, but to highlight what many of us were thinking before the players even took the field yesterday:

Cliff Lee doesn’t walk any batters. He has 0 BB’s this year. Joey Votto has 20 BB’s already this season. The Lee vs. Votto matchups will be interesting tonight.
Jay Bruce leads the World in K’s. Don’t think there will be much intrigue vs. Lee for Bruce.

For the record, Votto was 2-for-3 with a strikeout. Bruce was 1-for-2 with the walk. No strikeouts.

This is obviously the smallest of small sample sizes. A single plate appearance in a single game. Or a trio a plate appearances if you want to analyze the full game. But I do believe that Jay Bruce has adjusted to the glaring weakness that he used to have against left-handed pitchers earlier in his career.

Some notes on the table below:
— It is true that Bruce strikes out at a greater rate against LHP than RHP.
— Bruce went from rarely hitting homeruns off LHP to hitting bombs off LHP more frequently than RHP.
— LHP do not intentionally walk Jay Bruce. He has 1 intentional walk in his career against a LHP.

Years Split PA AB/HR K% BA OBP SLG BABIP —- IBB/BB OBP’ OPS’
2008-09 vs RHP 571 13.7 21% 0.259 0.320 0.528 0.259 —- 7% 0.315 0.843
2008-09 vs LHP 268 47.4 31% 0.198 0.284 0.312 0.264 —- 0% 0.284 0.596
—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-
2010-12 vs RHP 1301 20.2 25% 0.269 0.347 0.493 0.312 —- 21% 0.325 0.818
2010-12 vs LHP 569 14.8 32% 0.247 0.322 0.495 0.285 —- 2% 0.320 0.815
—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-
Career vs RHP 1709 18.0 24% 0.265 0.338 0.499 0.296 —- 19% 0.320 0.819
Career vs LHP 761 19.5 31% 0.235 0.313 0.439 0.284 —- 1% 0.311 0.750
Career Totals 2470 18.4 26% 0.256 0.330 0.480 0.293 —- 13% 0.317 0.797

*The columns OBP’ & OPS’ are OBP & OPS with intentional walks removed from the calculation.
**Career numbers include 2013 statistics.

There is an obvious difference in Bruce’s splits in the first two seasons of his career compared to what he has accomplished the past three years. While his strikeout rate remains higher against left-handed pitchers, when you adjust for the difference in intentional walks, Bruce has nearly identical OPS against righties and lefties over the past three seasons.