Jay Bruce has had a disappointing season. After what felt like a 2013 in which he took a few steps forward, 2014 has seen him taking at least as many back. Indeed, if you had bet on Bruce being in the same slugging territory as Billy Hamilton in mid August, you could have made a lot of money.
So what’s up here? Why has Jay Bruce, a predictably above average hitter, suddenly become below average at what he’s always done best?
As much as these posts are supposed to be about depth, this is pretty simple. There are several factors needed to explain Bruce’s off year, but taken together, they paint a complete picture. Best of all, I don’t see any serious red flags for next year.
Jay Bruce tore his meniscus. He played on it for a while. While playing on his damaged knee, he did not hit very well. SURPRISE! So, start by chucking those April and May numbers out the window. They don’t tell us anything useful.
The Power Outage
See the previous paragraph. Bruce has lost some distance on his average fly balls this year, but playing around with spray charts and dates shows that pretty much all of that can be accounted for by his injury. Since coming back from the DL, his fly balls have been going much farther.
Right now, Bruce has a BABIP of .277. This is the second lowest number of his career (second only to his aberrantly unlucky .221 in 2009), and well below his career rate of .294. Part of that can possibly be attributed to the lack of authority with which he hit balls while injured. Part of it also has to do with the fact that with a high strikeout rate and above average walk rate, Bruce doesn’t put a ton of balls in play, so he’s going to be more susceptible to random variation than some other guys.
Jay Bruce hasn’t had a good year, but I don’t think we’re seeing anything to be worried about. His power seems to have bounced back lately. His BB and SO numbers are more or less where we’d expect them to be. His BABIP and ISO are a little low for the season, but those are both understandable given his injury and maybe a little bad luck. Jay Bruce’s year is a lot like the Reds’ season, actually, it hasn’t gone nearly as well as it should have. Some of it’s luck, but a lot of it is just the kind of injury stuff that is going to happen from time to time.