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BABIP of the Week: Jay Bruce

Today marks the debut of a new Rotosynthesis feature, BABIP of the Week. Every week, I'll look at one batter, or pitcher, who's either a good buy-low or sell-high, using BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) as a barometer. Our first victim: Jay Bruce.

Only one everyday player in Major League Baseball sports a lower BABIP than Bruce's microscopic .206 (more on that other player in a minute). Given what we know about a typical player's BABIP (average figures tend to cluster about 100 points higher), Bruce's start tells us he's either been unlucky, or that he's hitting in the ball in a way that's not conducive to hitting balls where they ain't.

First let's look at the factors he can control. Bruce hits 0.70 groundballs for every one flyball. That's the 19th lowest rate in the game. As this Rich Lederer article (and many others) tell us, groundballs hit in play yield a much higher rate (about .260) than do flyballs hit in play that don't result in home runs (around .160-.170).

More troubling is Bruce's line drive rate. Those are the types of batted balls that are by far the most likely to drop in safely. But Bruce owns the third-lowest LD% in MLB at 13.1%--only pikers Cristian Guzman and Howie Kendrick are lower.

Where these numbers go from here is open to debate. In his rookie season last year, Bruce produced a much higher line drive rate, 21.1%. His GB/FB rate was a much higher 1.31 in '08, which also explains his considerably higher batting average in '08.

Either way, we now have a player hitting .216 for the season. That's .216/.294/.474 overall, and here's where we get to the good stuff: 14 HR (6th in the NL), 30 RBI and 29 R so far this year. Indeed, while Bruce's extreme flyball rates make him a potential batting average liability, batters who hit a lot more flyballs than groundballs are also more likely to hit the ball out of the ballpark, assuming they've got the power to do so.

Bruce obviously does, with an Isolated Slugging number (ISO) of .258, 24th-highest in the majors. He's improved in other ways too, hiking his BB/K rate to 0.42 (up from 0.30 last year) and his BB/AB rate up to 0.90/PA (0.73 last year).

So here we have a hitter hitting a ton of flyballs, very few line drives (which may or may not be a small sample size fluke), while showing an improved batting eye and tons of power. By contrast, the only player with a lower BABIP than Bruce is Garrett Atkins,
who at just 29, playing in Coors Field, should be a viable player, but has shown nothing in the way of encouraging signs, hitting .188/.264/.273 (he's not even viable enough to be a candidate for Chris Liss' Buy Lowest approach right now)

Jay Bruce is not going to come at the same bottom of the barrel discount that you'd get for, say, David Ortiz right now. Bruce is just 22 years old, and fantasy owners are seduced by youth and potential, even in non-keeper leagues. But you can probably get him for 85 cents on the dollar. You absolutely should go after him. Even if the low line drive rate holds, Bruce has still been so unlucky that a .240-.250 average with tons of power and run production should be in the cards for him for the rest of the season.

And if things really start to click, Jay Bruce could be the reason you win your league.

Comments

By: OB1jakearoni
On: 6/4/2009 3:44:00 PM
Someone did a similar analysis yesterday: [URL]http://www.redreporter.com/2009/6/3/897511/jay-bruce-is-young-and-talented[/URL)
 
By: OB1jakearoni
On: 6/4/2009 3:45:00 PM
http://www.redreporter.com/2009/6/3/897511/jay-bruce-is-young-and-talented
 
By: Jonah Keri
On: 6/4/2009 5:21:00 PM
Ha, serves me right for putting this off until today, when I was nearly done last night. Scooped!
 
By: nayfel
On: 6/4/2009 6:18:00 PM
Was offered Bruce and Hanrahan for McLouth in 5 by 5 17 team league. I'm a little concerned about the lack of homers i Atlanta, where the fewest hrs in the league so far has been.
 
By: Chris Liss
On: 6/4/2009 6:21:00 PM
One thing that overlaps is home run hitter and low BABIP. Because a home run is not in the field of play, their BABIP will be lower relative to their average. Put differently, if Bruce had 10 more doubles and 10 less homers, his BABIP would be a lot higher. So the low BABIP while still anomalous isn't as out of whack as it would be for someone with less power.
 
By: nayfel
On: 6/4/2009 7:51:00 PM
I know it's not necessarily the arenas for this, but does anyone have any thoughts on that offer I received, that I mentioned previously?
 
By: Erickson
On: 6/4/2009 11:42:00 PM
Nayfel - While Turner Field is by no means a hitters park, generally it's been pretty neutral in the past. The reason why the fewest homers have been hit there is the Grand Suck Auto outfield that they've put together. Looking at that lineup, who can hurt you? Chipper and McCann, and Diaz when there's a lefty on the mound, or Kelly Johnson somewhat when there's a righty.

That said, I like the trade - it's two risky players but both with reasonably high upsides.
 
By: loltz
On: 4/5/2011 10:48:00 PM
They're both good and it depends upon the needs of your team. As someone else suggested, you could take both. That would leave you more money to invest in other positions But the question was, which of the two. I'll take Bruce. Power translates to stats in more categories, such as Home Runs, RBIs and, to a lesser extent, Runs Scored. Speed gives you strong numbers in one category, speed, and decent numbers in runs scored. But, that's about it. With Bruce, you do sacrifice average, but that's about it. With speed, in this case, you sacrifice both Home Runs and RBIs. Speed typically translates to one run scored. A Home Run and Extra Base Hits often translates to multiple runs in the form of RBIs and Runs Scored
Some Fantasy players like the power, some like the speed. Because of its multiple facets, I usually opt for power with one or two speedsters, if I can get them for a decent price. apparel exporters | textile exporter
 
By: loltz
On: 4/5/2011 10:50:00 PM
I would take bruce as a 4th outfielder and hope he starts crushing the ball , his upside dwarfes gonzales, certinally a risk / reward pick but one that could win you a championship URL=http://www.thetextileicon.com]textile exporter[/URL]
 

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