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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Daugherty: MVP possible for Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce could have an MVP year. He really could. He’ll be 27 next month. This will be his seventh big-league season. He’s at the epicenter of his prime. It’s time.

Bruce has had MVP stretches, weeks and months when the Reds rode him like Secretariat. He has had full seasons of MVP-quality defense. His arm is a game changer. The potential to be a special player is there, and up to now just out of reach.

It’s strange to expect more from a player whose traditional power numbers have become as pleasantly consistent as the sunrise: Thirty-plus homers and doubles, 90-plus RBI. It’s odd to suggest we’re still waiting on Jay Bruce. Bruce has gotten a little better each year.

...He has embraced sabermetrics, to the extent they help him understand which numbers are important and which aren’t worth the anxiety. “Sabermetrics value every facet of the game,” he says. “They’re more about being a total baseball player than a gaudy, counting-stats guy. I get caught in the middle of that a little bit, because gaudy stats define me in a way. But I believe I can still do that and maximize every other part of my game.”

To Bruce, that means working pitching counts to his advantage, and not getting himself out swinging at pitches he wouldn’t feed his dog. Actually, Bruce has done better with that as well. Reds statistics guru Sam Grossman offers this in Bruce’s defense:

In the last three seasons, Bruce’s “chase percentage” of pitches outside the strike zone has declined from 29 percent to 26 percent.

The league average is between 28 and 29 percent. Bruce “has pretty low chase numbers for a power hitter,” Grossman says.

Another telling number: When Bruce fell behind in the count 0-2 or 1-2, and with the count even at 2-2, he batted .146 the previous two years, with a .250 slugging percentage. Both are abysmal. The league averages were .173 and .256, respectively. Plus, Bruce struck out 60 percent of the time in those situations. The league fanned 44 percent.

Thanks to VC.

Repoz Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:13 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: reds

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   1. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:54 AM (#4667097)
bruce could have a year where hits fall in, he bats .290 instead of his usual .260, so all the numbers are lifted accordingly. sure that would be a season that would get serious mvp consideration.

what's mildly interesting is looking at his road performance. overall bruce has a slugging percentage of .579 and 24 homers against the crew in 290 career at bats. but 17 of those homers have come at home. and that is a recurring theme as evidenced in him slugging 100 points higher at home than on the road. but the reason I point out miller park is not my brewer fandom is that a guy like bruce should go crazy in Milwaukee's ballpark. it's a homer park and the brewers staff during his career has been mediocre rightie central most of the time. same with the cubs. and the cards well don't even bother. overall he struggles and in st Louis he's a total wuss at the plate.

but to the original point, sure he could have a big season. jay bruce hitting .290/40/125 with defense on a 92 win team is a top mvp candidate. even with votto on the team given that the local press works so d8mn hard in telling everyone that votto stinks
   2. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 08:13 AM (#4667100)
You can just feel how badly Daughterty wants Bruce, and not Votto, to be the Reds' acknowledged star.
   3. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 06, 2014 at 08:25 AM (#4667101)
zeth

you noticed that too? it's pretty sad. votto ain't barry bonds for cr8ssakes.

cincy is an odd place at times
   4. JE (Jason) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 08:37 AM (#4667103)
He has embraced sabermetrics, to the extent they help him understand which numbers are important and which aren’t worth the anxiety. “Sabermetrics value every facet of the game,” he says. “They’re more about being a total baseball player than a gaudy, counting-stats guy. I get caught in the middle of that a little bit, because gaudy stats define me in a way. But I believe I can still do that and maximize every other part of my game.”

This is pretty cool. Too bad BP isn't taking copious notes.
   5. donlock Posted: March 06, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4667115)
DONLOCK: Kate Upton possible for me
   6. TDF, situational idiot Posted: March 06, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4667119)
but to the original point, sure he could have a big season. jay bruce hitting .290/40/125 with defense on a 92 win team is a top mvp candidate.
Especially since a guy who hits .290/40 might have 150 RBI hitting behind Votto (as long as BP isn't constantly making the 3rd out).
even with votto on the team given that the local press works so d8mn hard in telling everyone that votto stinks
Yeah, but that hasn't happened. Last year, with all of the talk of BP being the team MVP and Votto being too worried about walks, Votto finished 6th (about where he should have) in MVP voting and BP didn't get a single vote (about what he should have gotten). Votto also finished about where he should have in '11 (another 6th) and given he only had 111 GP in '12, no one can really complain about his lack of support that year.

Given the national voting of the awards, and the plethora of nationally-available information, I wonder how much local media really matters any more for opinion-shaping.
   7. TJ Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4667149)
Given the national voting of the awards, and the plethora of nationally-available information, I wonder how much local media really matters any more for opinion-shaping.


Probably not much for awards, but a lot in riling up the local fan base against a player the media member doesn't like...
   8. Ron J2 Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4667151)
I know similarity scores have plenty of limitations, but it terms of MVP talk Bruces's age 26 comps are (to me at any rate) unexpectedly good.

Tony Conigliaro (969)
Tom Brunansky (960)
Reggie Jackson (955)
Jack Clark (946)
Jeff Burroughs (944)
Troy Glaus (929)
Roger Maris (928)
Boog Powell (928)
Sammy Sosa (925)
Barry Bonds (924)


Yeah, they aren't really great comps. I suspect Szym's comp list would be substantially less optimistic.
   9. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:48 AM (#4667155)
I don't see Bruce as really comparable to any of those guys. Maris is probably the closest comp from that list; people forget how athletic Roger was, good enough to play center field on a team that didn't already have Mantle.

Actually, the guy that comes to mind when I think of Bruce - not statistically, but in terms of skills - is Bobby Bonds.

-- MWE
   10. base ball chick Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:49 AM (#4667169)
i really REALLY do not get the local media votto hate. i guess he should just swing away at everything but not walk or K

cincy should just go ahead and trade him for some nice glovey no walk first baseman - i'd say chris carter, but he strikes out more than adam dunn - like sean casey. the best first baseman EVAH, i guess
   11. PreservedFish Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4667174)
Is Bruce a good fielder? His numbers are all up and down. In my mind's eye he's average.
   12. TDF, situational idiot Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4667175)
Yeah, they aren't really great comps.
First, technically they are - if I remember correctly, any score over 900 is considered a good comp.

But more importantly, they seem to be really good comps, except for Jackson and Bonds; Bruce is right there in all of the stats, except for WAR (which is screwed up by Bonds). Because of the era/park, his OPS+ is a little light, but not horribly so.

Obviously there are differences in the players within that group, but just in the statlines they do look close.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4667177)

Given the national voting of the awards, and the plethora of nationally-available information, I wonder how much local media really matters any more for opinion-shaping.

Yeah, Votto actually won an MVP award, didn't he?

I'm surprised that the local media isn't harder on Bruce. He was a #1 ranked prospect who has been a good but not great player, low batting average, strikes out a ton. Exactly the kind of guy who in many cities would be viewed as a "disappointment".
   14. BDC Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4667179)
The B-Ref comps seem a bit inflated by the home runs. By OPS+ and PAs, here are ten centered on Bruce through age 26 (and a very narrow range, because there are a lot of similar careers through 26):

Player             dWAR   PA WAR/pos OPS+  SB      Pos
Gary Carter        10.4 3344    28.5  117  28 
*29/H735
Frankie Frisch      9.3 3317    29.0  118 180   
*45/6H
Billy Herman        6.9 3464    23.1  112  38     
*4/H
Edgardo Alfonzo     4.8 3368    23.0  114  34   45
/H6D
Joe Sewell          2.9 3493    24.9  116  37    
*6/4H
Troy Glaus          2.6 3237    21.2  118  47   
*5/D6H
Paul Molitor        2.5 3430    23.8  115 189 45
/68DH9
Carlos Baerga       1.2 3457    20.7  115  47  
*45/6HD
Jay Bruce           0.1 3406    15.8  115  36   
*9/8H7
Harold Baines      
-3.3 3459    13.4  116  27   *9/H8D
Carlos May        
-10.4 3558     9.3  115  68  *73/DH9 


Still a lot of quality players, with the HOFers concentrated as one would guess among the better defenders at more key positions. Not bad company by any means, but with the caveat that Bruce's position doesn't lend itself to his racking up great WAR totals – or possibly to having a super-long career.

I guess he might win an MVP in the next couple of years if he goes full Chris-Davis on the fences. But will he ever hit .300 or draw 100 walks or such usual MVP things?
   15. Ron J2 Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4667183)
#11 He has a very strong arm and that'll lead a fair number of people to overrate him defensively.
   16. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4667192)
He was a #1 ranked prospect who has been a good but not great player, low batting average, strikes out a ton. Exactly the kind of guy who in many cities would be viewed as a "disappointment".

he hustles. he gets some big hits. like most power hitters he has hot streaks that with any player go a long way in clouding the overall performance. his may and june together last season alone were tremendous.

I have heard the tv guys talk about bruce needing to do some things better but overall he's regarded pretty favorably. as he should be. he contributes
   17. base ball chick Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4667196)
well, looking at bruce, he had 185 Ks last year - would be surprised there was not a lynch mob, but then i see he had 5 sac flies and only 63 walks, so i gues that is OK
   18. BDC Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4667203)
I made that remark above about hitting .300 in pretty offhand manner; but having checked, I see that only two (position-player) MVPs since 1990 have won while batting lower than .300 – and both were Gold Glove shortstops who hit in the high .290s (AROD and Rollins). Bruce has his work cut out for him.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4667416)
Of course he's at an age where guys often peak. But BDC is right ... other than some IF (Kent, Jones, Larkin, Caminiti), you have to go back to Kevin Mitchell in the 1989 NL to find an MVP who is kinda similar to Bruce. That was an era of "kinda similar to Bruce" MVPs though with Gibson, Dawson and McGee winning it 3 of the 4 years before Mitchell. In the AL, I suppose Juan Gone is close enough.

With declining offense, we may be back in something closer to the late 80s and a 290-300ish OF with a ton of RBIs might well win.

Not sure Bruce is a good candidate for a breakout though -- Over the last 4 years, his OPS+ is 120 and it's not been higher than 124 -- that's as consistent as you can possibly be. His ISOs: 212, 218, 262, 216 ... also incredibly stable. His Rbat -- 18, 12, 10, 15 -- stable and not particularly impressive. If you look at his ratios, he hasn't improved in any area -- and last year was largely driven by a fluke-ish looking 29% LD rate.

Some WAR comps -- Bruce has 14 WAR, 10 oWAR over ages 23-26. Just looking 1990 on, at least 50% at 1B/LF/RF, at least 1500 PA:

15 players and it is a pretty good list with 3 MVPs on it. Votto is here although that's a bit of mismatch since he didn't really play until 24. But ignoring him, the list is headed up by Damon, Crawford, Helton, Drew and Salmon. Then you get Bruce, followed by Sosa, Carlos Gonzalez, Berkman (another late starter), Shawn Green, Prince, Alex Rios, Juan Gone, Luis Gone, and Franklin Gutierrez.

Bruce: 262/337/489, 10 oWAR
Sosa: 272/327/490, 8 oWAR

If he took more walks he could be Drew; if he played in Coors, he could be CarGo. Boost his BA just a bit (or let him play in sillyball) and he's Shawn Green.

From 27-30, dropping Votto for obvious reasons and CarGo because he only just played his age 27 season, these guys range from 3.5 (the injured Gutierrea) to 28.5 (Helton). Among Bruce's more likely comps:

Sosa 19
Green 19
Drew 18
Damon 15
Salmon 14
Juan 13
Rios 8

So it looks like Bruce should continue to produce at about the rate he has through age 30, he's signed through 29. This does include Sosa's MVP and one of Juan's.
   20. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: March 07, 2014 at 02:17 AM (#4667603)
Jay Bruce is Geoff Jenkins/Jeremy Burnitz
   21. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 07, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4667643)
Jay Bruce is Geoff Jenkins/Jeremy Burnitz

Whoa. That is way unfair to Jay Bruce.

Geoff Jenkins career WAR: 21.7 over 11 seasons

Jeremy Burnitz career WAR: 19.6 over 14 seasons

Jay Bruce career WAR: 16.8 over 6 seasons.

Jay Bruce is about to turn 27. Barring injury he should demolish the career WAR numbers of the guys you're comparing him to.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4668051)
Actually I'd say Jenkins was probably a step above Bruce, he just kept getting hurt and it caught up to him. From 24-30, in about 6 seaosns of PA, he had 20 WAR. He had 3 seasons over 4 WAR and another on a 4 WAR pace. And a similar profile to Bruce, Jenkins was an excellent LF, walked a bit more, posted (at his best) higher OPS+ than Bruce. Bruce probably will pass him in career WAR but that will mainly be due to getting an earlier start and hopefully aging better but Bruce is not yet as good a player as Jenkins was.

Burnitz is a completely different beastie as he didn't become a regular until 28. He did however have a couple of seasons with an OPS+ in the 140s and was as valuable at his peak as Bruce has been to date -- Burnitz had 16 WAR from 28-32.

We'll see how the next few years go for Bruce, he might break out for his prime. But at the moment he's looking a lot like a guy whose useful career might end around 32-33 -- he's not far enough above average now to withstand much decline in offense/defense.
   23. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 07, 2014 at 07:50 PM (#4668134)
Bruce had an interesting 2013, even if his final numbers were pretty similar to seasons past. He started horribly. He's a streaky guy but he'd never had a period as bad as opening day through May 7 (1 HR, 40 Ks, .640 OPS). He obviously recovered, and finished second in the league in XBHs. Also, to the first comment he had his first year where he hit significantly better on the road then at home. That was particularly surprising given Houston's league switch.

The chase stats in the article are interesting, but the bottom line is that the K and BB rates are still trending the wrong way. He's regressed for three years in a row, and is now up to 26% for Ks and down to 9% for walks. I can't see an MVP season until he controls the zone better. Which probably isn't going to happen at this point.
   24. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 07, 2014 at 07:52 PM (#4668135)
On the local media, it's really a one man campaign against Votto. You'll hear Marty grouse from time to time but he's not an idiot. This guy is, and for that reason he gets linked here all the damn time.

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