I can’t really explain it, but I’ve always loved me some Jay Bruce. Bruce’s pie-face photo was my first ever twitter avatar and I’ve been a content fantasy owner in my primary keeper league since he debuted in 2008..
But I expected more by this point.
Sure, Bruce is a pretty good hitter. For four straight seasons he’s hovered around a 120 wRC+, indicating he’s hit about 20 percent better than a league average batter. He’s also been worth 14.3 wins above replacement (fWAR) in his 794 career games, or about 2.7 wins above replacement per 150 games. He’s also a lefty slugger who remains league-average against southpaws, a valuable breed.
He’s basically plateaued as a slightly above average player, all things considered, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
However, Bruce hasn’t improved since his age-23 season in 2010. He’s been the same guy in net terms ever since, which is a little odd given that hitters tend to peak around his current age, 26. (It’s worth noting that his 2010 looks more like an outlier when using fWAR, but his defense that season was given an outlier grade compared to the rest of his profile. His batting value has been fairly consistent.)
You could, however, quickly point to a declining walk rate and growing strikeout rate as the culprits behind his stagnation.
Interestingly, he’s traded less contact for harder contact.
|Season||Age||LD%||LD/GB Distance||FB%||FB Distance||HR/FB|
We know how hitters generally age, and it actually indicates that power tends to peak earlier while walks peak later and strikeouts are a "you are what you are" proposition around this age.
It’s difficult to tell how Bruce will age moving forward given that he’s basically bucked the aging curves and been similarly productive through his age 23 to age 26 seasons. With four affordable seasons left on his deal – Bruce needs to produce about three wins a year for the team to ‘profit’ – it isn’t of much concern to the Cincinnati Reds in financial terms.
But with the team’s window to compete open right now, a more appreciable peak certainly wouldn’t hurt.
(A late-season surge wouldn’t hurt my second place fantasy team, either).
All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise cited.