May 31, 2011, 2:39 AM EDT
They’re calling Jay Bruce “Mr. May” in Cincinnati. And for good reason.
The 24-year-old Reds outfielder has had an amazing month, carrying the Reds offense. In Cincinnati’s 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, Bruce was 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, falling a double short of the cycle.
He’s bashed 12 home runs and driven in 32 runs in May while hitting .346. He’s two short of the team record for home runs in a month, shared by Frank Robinson (August, 1962) and Greg Vaughn (Sept. 1999). But the Reds play the Brewers again on Tuesday, so don’t rule him out just yet. Two home runs? It doesn’t seem impossible the way Bruce is swinging the bat.
Bruce has a career OPS of .814 (.901 this season), but has been prone to chasing bad pitches during his four-year career. But not so much this season, according to the man himself, as told to the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“I’ve been making better decisions, which is one of the big things,” Bruce said. “It’s cliché and all that, but it’s the truth. Swing at pitches you want to swing at and don’t swing at the pitches they’re trying to get you to chase, and you’re going to have a lot easier time up there.”
It’s not so much about recognizing the strike zone – a quick trip over to Fangraphs reveals that Bruce is swinging at 29.1 percent of pitches out of the zone, just 0.2 percent below his 2010 level – but that he is swinging at, and crushing, pitches that he likes, whether they are in the zone or not. Bruce’s contact rate on pitches outside the zone is 61.6 percent (up from 53.2 percent for his career), and his overall contact rate is 76.2 percent (compared to 74.1).
Whatever the reason for Bruce’s hot streak, the Reds like what they see.
“It just shows his potential, what he can do,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the Enquirer. “His concentration is great, his balance is excellent and he’s keeping his head still. It’s really nice to see him swinging great.”
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