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Monday, February 18, 2013

Hal McCoy: Of dinner, Chapman, Bruce, Phillips

Dusty’s Trail plotzed out after 26 torturous episodes…this one seems endless.

JAY BRUCE ALWAYS talks about wanting to be the best hitter in baseball (the talent and ability is there), but continues to be perplexed by his long periods of streakiness — periods where he hits well enough to win Player of the Month and long periods where he struggles to put solid wood on the baseball.

Asked if there is any way to help him, manager Dusty Baker said, “First you have to help yourself because there isn’t anybody up there swinging but him. He has a chance. He is still trying to figure some things out or not to figure things out. That’s the dilemma as a young player — when do you be natural and when do you be smart? Sometimes you try to figure things out that don’t need to be figured.

“It is not easy being a young player and I can see the frustration on his face and I feel his frustration and pain,” Baker added. “What gets him in trouble is he fouls off too many pitches. If he didn’t foul them off he wouldn’t get into so many strikeout situations. He has to learn to center the ball more.”

A couple of years ago, I asked Brandon Phillips how he felt about being called a hot dog because of the extra flair he likes to flash on the field and he smiled and said, “Tell them to pass the mustard.”

After winning the Gold Glove two years ago and winning it three times, Phillips didn’t win it last year and he believes it was because some managers don’t like the Oscar Mayer in him.

“It shouldn’t have anything to do with personal likes or dislikes when it comes to personality,” said Baker. “It should come down to who is the best at that position. But it is a natural thing that people vote for who they like.

“I’ve talked to him about it (toning it down) and Joe Morgan has talked to him about it, but after a while you quit talking about it and realize that’s him and hope he just tones it down some.”

Repoz Posted: February 18, 2013 at 09:01 AM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: reds

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   1. smileyy Posted: February 18, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4371380)
JAY BRUCE ALWAYS talks about wanting to be the best hitter in baseball (the talent and ability is there)


No, it is not. If the talent and ability were there, he'd have more than a career 113 OPS+ through age 25.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 18, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4371421)
McCoy has a kinda old-school style of writing that I actually find quite refreshing. Lots of good info in there - very old school Peter Gammons-esque. I didn't know McCoy was blogging now.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 18, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4371499)
Along the lines of #1, it's kinda time to stop calling Bruce young. Yes, I know, still only 26 but he's got 2700 PA in the majors. He's not some kid adjusting to a higher level of play, he's not in that "they've adjusted to him now he needs to adjust to them" bucket. I'm not saying "he is what he is" and he's got no chance for improvement but we aren't talking future superstar here.

That said, he is what he is. :-) High K, low BA, very good power. In his "big" year he had a 334 BABIP which is 44 points above his career BABIP. Walking more is probably a more realistic change than "centering the ball more." If he's fouling pitches off to get into strikeout situations then he's probably swinging too often early in the count at pitches he can't mash.

From fangraphs, he swings at 30% of the pitches outside the zone and 50% overall. That looks a little worse than Prince, much worse than Dunn. Austin Jackson just had a big year and part of that was reducing his swing %age on balls outside the zone from about 28% to 24% (and also career low in the zone) although he also upped his contact rate on pitches in the zone. (Warning: I was looking at the "plate discipline" numbers and now see there is also "picth f/x plate discipline" which has a different set of numbers but they tell the same basic story).

So my best guess for how Bruce can improve is to swing less, not swing better. The foul balls might well be the symptom but they're probably the result of swinging at the wrong pitches, not swinging badly.

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