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.


There have been no comments made on this article. Why not be the first and add your own comment using the form below.

Leave a comment

Commenting is restricted to registered users only. Please register or login now to submit a comment.

Tell Someone

  • Digg it
  • submit to reddit reddit
  • Add to Mixx!

Recent Favorites

What I Think You Should Know About The USMNT
Needless to say, it's been a great World Cup thus far. The USMNT having some success would be awesome.
La-La-La-L.A. Gets Lord Stanley!
Just a few things that caught my eye:
  • Alec Martinez's Cup-winning goal celebration? # priceless. I wonder if he'll ever get his gloves back.
  • Henrik Lundqvist stopped the 50th shot of the game. He couldn't stop the 51st. #connsmythe if the Rangers had found a way to come back in this series.
Do Analytics Take the Fun Out of Sports?
Apparently that was the topic of one of the presentations at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston last week. The presenter, Yale's Edward Tufte, opined:

Don't let people tell you analytics are reductionist and take the joy out of sports. They mostly just take the stupidity out of sports.

Is he right?

RotoWire's AL LABR Squad
The 2014 AL LABR auction went down at the Arizona Republic offices in downtown Phoenix Saturday night. It's a 12-team, 5 x 5, AL-only league with 2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B. 1 3B, 1 SS, 1 CI, 1 MI, 5 OF, 1 U and 9 pitchers. Everyone has $260 to spend.
The Problem With Drafting Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton went for $28 in the NL LABR auction this past weekend. I discussed this with a fellow writer who participates in Tout Wars with me later this month and we discussed the problem with investing heavily into Hamilton.

RSS Feeds