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A Closer Look: Reds Outfielder Jay Bruce

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Coming into the 2010 season, many fantasy experts felt that Reds outfielder Jay Bruce would grow into a 30 HR hitter based on his terrific minor league numbers, and expected a bounceback season after his mediocre 2009 season where he hit just .223, but did hit 22 HRs.

I drafted Bruce in several leagues as I felt he would easily be a 30 HR candidate, especially when his 2009 BABIP was just .221. I felt if he could raise his BABIP to the league average around .300, he could raise his BA and his HR totals. But, so far, that has not been the case.

When I saw this article from Jeff Sullivan over at SB Nation's MLB site, I had to look into Bruce's season in more detail. In his article, Sullivan had this to say about Cincinnatti's Great American Ball Park:

From one extreme environment to another, we move to Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, which doesn't behave the way Petco does. Rather, it behaves in ways dissimilar, most notably by increasing home runs. Cincinnati isn't an extreme run-scoring environment, but it is an extreme home run environment, boosting them by 22% for left-handed hitters and 35% for right-handed hitters, according to the park factors at StatCorner.com. Those are big, big rates.

So GABP increases HR s for left-handed hitters by 22% and Bruce has just 10 HRs in 2010. What has happened?

A couple numbers that jump off his Fangraphs page are his ISO and his BABIP. One is headed in the right direction-his BABIP is .321 this season-and one is headed in the wrong direction-his ISO is down to .167 from .246 in 2009.

His batted ball data also show some good and bad. His LD% is up to 20% from 13% in 2009. But, his FB% is down to 41% from 49% in 2009. He is also striking out more in 2010-26%-up from 22% in 2009. 

His plate discipline data show that he is swinging at more pitches outside the zone and making more contact at pitches outside the zone. That tells me he is expanding his strike zone, and not making good contact when he does swing.

I am curious if Bruce became more selective at the plate if he could increase his power numbers. Fantasy owners want to know as he has disappointed many in 2010, including moi. I was watching a recent Reds game, and analyst Jeff Brantley commented that if Bruce doesn't improve, he could find himself in a platoon with Chris Heisey. Something to watch as the season grows longer.