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Looking at Jay Bruce's struggles in 2014

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Jay Bruce was a four-win player in 2013 before being worth negative wins this past season. Is this a sign of things to come, or will he bounce back next year?

Andy Lyons

Nothing went right for Jay Bruce in 2014. His offensive game plummeted and he did not look like the player he had been for the the past six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Often, he looked lost at the plate. He posted a -1.1 fWAR and hit fewer than 20 home runs for the first time in his career.

I can't find a single statistic that he improved upon, so instead, let's look at the three biggest differences between 2013 and this past season.

On-base Percentage

His walk rate didn't change much from 2013 -- 9% to 8.1% -- but his OBP still dropped 48 points to a measly .281 clip. He ended up with the fourth-lowest on-base percentage in Major League Baseball. Part of this can be blamed on a bit of bad luck as his batting average on balls in play went from .322 to .269 and, as a result, his overall batting average went from .262 to .217.

His line-drive and fly-ball rate decreased, and his ground-ball rate rose. For a big and slow guy like Bruce, it's not surprising his BABIP took a dive.

Eye at the Plate

This table illustrates another aspect of his odd year at the plate.

Season Name Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing%
2013 Jay Bruce Reds 29.70% 76.10% 49.70%
2014 Jay Bruce Reds 33.40% 69.40% 47.30%

Even though Bruce swung at pitches outside of the zone more frequently in 2014, it's unfair to label him an undisciplined hitter; he actually took more pitches for strikes and wasn't swinging at everything and anything in the zone. He seemed to realize that just because a pitch is in the strike zone, doesn't mean it's a good pitch to hit. Bruce's strikeout percentage only raised a small amount (26.5 to 27.3). However, Bruce might want to return to his mashing-everything-in-the-strike-zone ways. He clearly had more success doing that.

Fastball Runs Above Average

In 2013, Bruce had the 19th-best wFB mark (19.6). In 2014, he had the 28th-lowest (-3.2). He hit .225 against the four-seam fastball, .248 against the sinker and .200 against the cutter. He normally hits in the upper .300s against the hard stuff. He still managed to hit 11 home runs off the four-seamer, but his isolated power dropped 50 points. If a power hitter like Bruce can't hit the fastball, his power will be very limited.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.

Justin Schultz is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @JSchu23.