Bruce on Verge of Second 30 HR Season
The arrival of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in Cincinnati ended a drought from their farm system. Bruce was the twelfth overall selection in the 05 draft and now in his fifth MLB year. Though there have been periods of inconsistency, he's established himself as a solid run producer in the middle of the Reds lineup and leads them in both HR and RBI at the age of 25.
Cincinnati struggled Sunday against Houston starter Bud Norris who threw six scoreless innings allowing only three hits/one walk while striking out six. After he turned a 1-0 lead over to the bullpen the Astros extended their lead to three in the seventh. The next inning a walk to Drew Stubbs and single by Brandon Phillips forced a pitching change. Jay Bruce greeted Xavier Cedeno with a three-run home run to right field to tie the score. Later that inning RBI doubles by pinch-hitter Chris Heisey and Miguel Cairo provided the margin of victory in a 5-3 Reds win. Phillips had two hits on the day to raise his average to .299 and Xavier Paul also added two to put him at .320 in fifty at-bats with the Reds.
On the mound Bronson Arroyo had a fine start himself. He kept his team in the game by limiting the Astros to one run on three hits/one walk in six innings. Jose Arredondo allowed two runs in the seventh, but the timing of the rally gave him his sixth win of the season. Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the eight with two strikeouts and Aroldis Chapman matched him in the ninth for his 34th save. Cincinnati retained the MLB lead with 82 wins and a St. Louis loss at Washington extended their division lead to 9.5 games.
It’s been an exciting season for Reds fans with no shortage of surprises. Johnny Cueto is seeking to win the franchise’s first ever Cy Young Award winner. Todd Frazier started off the season at AAA and is now a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. Chapman took over the back end of an injury-ravaged pen and struck out 115 of 246 batters faced. Ryan Ludwick started off horribly and caught fire to make him a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. They’ve had one of the top pitching staffs in the league and the resurgence in the lineup after losing Joey Votto to the DL has given them the largest cushion of all division leaders. It’s easy to overlook the performance of Bruce. He’s led the team in HR/RBI while maintaining a .257 AVG/.335 OB%.
Throughout his five-year MLB career Bruce has been known for sizzling hot streaks and ice cold slumps. One thing that is easy to forget about the veteran is that he’s still only twenty-five years old. Perhaps the 05 first-round pick took some unreasonable expectations on himself when he burst on the MLB scene after a May 08 call-up and started off 13-22 with a couple of homers in his first six games. No surprise he didn’t finish at .500 that season, or .400 for that matter, but he did hit 21 HR in 413 AB. Since then he’s made the all-star team twice and his next dinger will give him a second 30 HR campaign.
All the while he’s played stellar defense in right field. He may not have a gold glove, buy many consider him gold-glove caliber. His range provides more than two putouts per game in right field and his first couple of years he gunned down one base runner per every ten games on average. The past couple of years that rate have been less frequent, likely because of the respect that his arm has earned from opposing base-runners.
Bruce has had some incident with injury. In 2009 his hustle going after the ball interrupted his season with a broken wrist. It appeared like the end of a disappointing year offensively, but then he came back to hit like Ted Williams for the last eighteen games of the season. Last season he appeared in 155 games, starting all but four of them.
Sometimes after five seasons there are some thoughts that a player has been at it long enough that his consistency is as good as it’s going to get. On the other hand, most five-year veterans are older than twenty-five. In Bruce’s case consistency comes with his selectivity against left-handed pitching. His first two seasons he hit around .200 against southpaws, but that changed in 2010 when he raised that average to .277, almost the same as he did against right-handers. That dipped slightly to .240 in 2011 and this season it’s at .226.
Of course contact is a concern and this season he’s still striking out in almost 25% of his plate appearances. That goes up to around 30% against lefties. Still it’s much easier for a lineup to absorb 150 k’s/season from a hitter that provides a legitimate mid-lineup power threat. Meanwhile his walk rate the past couple of seasons has given him a nice AVB/OB differential of around .090’.
The most noteworthy home run of Bruce’s career thus far was the walk-off shot in 2010 that clinched the Reds’ first division championship in fifteen years. After that season the Reds front office had seen enough to restructure his contract keeping him under team control through 2017. He’ll make $5M this season and $7.5M next year, which is great value for a two-time all-star. The back-loaded terms have his salary escalating up to $12.5M in 2016 and a $13M team option the final year.
At the time of the extension Bruce expressed a desire to remain in Cincinnati to continue being a part of rebuilding the organization. His youth allowed him to give a long-term commitment to the Reds and still have the opportunity to explore free agency at the ripe old age of 31. Bruce desires to win ballgames for the franchise that drafted/developed him and now they’ve built up to a point to where they are a serious contender for a deep October run.
News from the Farm:
Louisville took a 3-1 lead in the first and then gave way as Indianapolis cruised to an 11-6 win over the Bats at Louisville Slugger Field. Felix Perez had three hits to raise his average over .300. Neftali Soto added two hits and drove in two. Todd Redmond took the loss when he was roughed up for six runs on five hits/three walks and did not make it past the second inning.
Pensacola took a 3-3 game into the fifteenth inning before losing 7-3 at home to Tennessee. Bryson Smith had three hits and is now batting .313. Josh Fellhauer went 2-5 with two walks and is now up to .311. Beau Mills and Donald Lutz also added two hits apiece. Chad Rogers was lifted in the sixth and allowed two runs on five hits while striking out eight and walking one for no decision. Michael Griffin threw the final two innings and allowed four runs for the loss.
Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:
Hamilton led off the seventh with a walk and was thrown out attempting to steal second base. He never reached base again and later left the game in a double switch for a new pitcher. He’s stolen 155 bases out of 192 attempts in 131 games this season.
Bakersfield took a four run lead in the first and cruised to a 10-5 home win over Rancho Cucamonga. Dominic D’Anna had three hits and drove in three including a two run homer in the first. Stephen Hunt also had three hits and Devin Lohman added two. Stalin Gerson had a nice start, allowing one run on five hits in five innings while striking out five without a walk for his second win since a promotion from Dayton.
Dayton fell behind 5-0 after three innings at West Michigan and came up short in their comeback attempt to lose 6-4. Taylor Wrenn had two of the Dragons’ seven hits. Robert Stephenson allowed five runs (three earned) on nine hits in four innings for the loss.
Billings took a 5-0 lead after two innings and held off Missoula for a 6-4 win at home. Beau Amaral, Jesse Winker, and Julio Morillo had two hits each for the Mustangs and Daniel Pigott added a three-run homer. Joel Bender had an outstanding start by limiting the Osprey to three hits/one walk in six shutout innings for the win. Matt Wiley entered in the eighth and allowed a run before finishing the game, but still qualified for his ninth save.