Welcome to another edition of Mortal Kombat, where we take two potentially evenly matched players and pit them against each other to see who the better man is. This weeks matchup is a battle of power as we see Jay Bruce take on Mark Trumbo. Both of these men were spotlighted in Ron Vackar’s Bounce Back outfielders article earlier this week. While Ron predicts a larger bounce back from Trumbo, early 2015 rankings say the opposite. Bruce comes in at number 21 on this list, ranking anywhere between 17 and 30. Trumbo’s consolidated ranking is 34, placing anywhere between 30 and 46. Going back to the 2014 draft, Bruce was selected on average in the middle of round 4 while Trumbo fell down to the middle of round 7. Three round and 36 players is a fairly large gap. Is Bruce being overvalued or is he really worth it? Is Trumbo getting the short end of the stick or is Bruce really that much better?
Let’s go to the tale of the tape to see how these two stack up against each other.
|Jay Bruce||Mark Trumbo|
|Age||28 (April 3rd)||29 (January 16th)|
|Height||6′ 3″||6′ 4″|
|Bats/Throws||L / L||R / R|
|First Year in Majors||2008||2011|
|ML At Bats||3531||2046|
Power is what these two gentlemen are all about. From 2011 to 2013, Bruce racked up a total of 96 home runs over 1,771 at bats. Over those same three years, Trumbo totaled 95 home runs over 1,703 at bats. Their isolated power is just as close as their home run totals which should come as no surprise. Starting with 2010, Bruce has had ISO totals of .212, .217, .263 and .216. In 2014 his ISO slipped down to .156. That was 50 points below his career norm, but in 2012 his ISO was 50 points above his career norm so don’t read too much into that just yet. Spikes like this occur of the course of a player’s career. From 2011 to 2013, Trumbo posted ISO numbers of .223, .222 and .219. Just like Bruce, Trumbo’s total slipped in 2014 down to .180. Not as large of a drop compared to Bruce, but still a drop nonetheless. Trumbo can blame his drop on an injury that took him out of action for a little over two months. Bruce hit a wall after years of consistency, but he also missed some games in May leading some to speculate that there might have been an undisclosed injury that he was attempting to play through.
Looking at Trumbo’s average fly ball distance, the power was still there in 2014 despite missing time. He came in at number 33 according to baseball heatmaps with an average distance of 295.49 feet. That is slightly lower but right in line with the 296.74 feet he average in 2013 and higher that the 292.60 feet from 2012. Jay Bruce saw his average fly ball distance dip in 2014 down to 284.64 feet, but it isn’t the first time this number has seen this neighborhood. That average was 293.46 feet in 2013, 292.42 in 2012 and 286.75 in 2011 (he hit 32 homers that year). Looking at just distances it would seem Trumbo has an edge, but Bruce is high enough that the edge is only a matter of whose ball is traveling further over the wall as neither is in the just enough range.
It’s after you delve into their batted ball profiles that you see some cause for concern. Trumbo saw a 6% drop in his HR/FB ratio last season after holding steady in the 20% range the previous two seasons. This is surprising considering his FB% was up, but not really when you take into account the time he missed since we’re dealing with a smaller sample size. Before 2014, his numbers were fairly consistent from year to year. Bruce, while staying constant with his power, has seen his FB% trend in the wrong direction. In 2014 that number was 34%, 10% lower than it was in 2012 and the third straight year it has dropped. His GB% also spiked last season, 7% higher than his career norms. The good news is that while his FB% has gone down, his HR/FB% has remained high (excluding the drop in 2014).
Bruce does have one saving grace for him if the FB% doesn’t come up and that is his home park. Playing in a bandbox like the Great American ballpark does have its advantages. Bruce has 182 career home runs and 108 of those have come at home. Throw in road games against the Cubs (6), Brewers (7), Cardinals (7) and Pirates (6) and you get 134 home runs either at home or on the road against division rivals. As long as Bruce is part of the Reds organization, we should continue to see typical Bruce power numbers. Trumbo doesn’t need a comfy home park or division. Of his 109 career home runs, 45 of those came at Angels stadium and tack on another 11 for SAFECO and the Coliseum. That’s half of his home runs in 3 of the most spacious parks in the league. Playing in Arizona should not be a problem so don’t sweat road games against the Dodgers and Padres.
Now Bruce does have some warning signs, but I’m not here to speculate over the possible decline of Bruce. He had a bad year in my eyes and everyone is allowed, just like we give players like Trumbo a mulligan for his injury year and move on. The fact is, these two men are dead even in the power department. Trumbo has an edge, but Bruce counters any advantage with his home park and division. Bottom line, you can’t go wrong either way here.
You get a bit of a breather here after reading about the home run comparisons. This one is pretty simple as neither player is a strong stolen base threat. Over the past 4 years, Bruce has stolen 8, 9, 7 and 12 bases. The 12 he stole last year was a career high so I would not expect that again, but at age 28 I would not rule it out either. It’s safe to assume that Bruce is good for 8 stolen bases, but with new manager Price giving the green light more often we could see double digits again. Trumbo stole 9 bases in 2011, but in the following years he has totaled 4, 5 and 2 stolen bases. Just like Bruce, the 9 he stole were a career high during his rookie season. Since that time he has averaged only 5. While only 3 stolen bases separate these two men on paper, it’s that potential for more from Bruce which gives him the edge, ever so slight.
Runs Batted In
Up until last year, Bruce was a model of consistency. In 2011 Bruce drove in 97 runs, that went up to 99 in 2012 and with 600+ at bats he totaled 109 in 2013. His batting average with runners on or in scoring position doesn’t play much of a factor here. Bruce is a career .251 hitters and that is the same regardless of whether anyone is on base or not. His RBI totals are derived from his spot in the batting order. Bruce primarily hits 5th in the order while occasionally sliding down to 4th. With a healthy Joey Votto hitting in front of him along with Todd Frazier and speedster Billy Hamilton, we should see Bruce’s RBI total back in the range of 90 with the potential for more if he tallies 600 at bats.
Trumbo is no slouch when it comes to RBIs, totaling 87, 95 and 100 runs batted in during his three years with the Angels. Like Bruce, he bounced between the 4th and 5th spot in the order so he had ample opportunities to drive men home. Goldschmidt was the primary number three hitter on the team, but with Kirk Gibson gone that could change in 2015. Trumbo will be hitting in the 3, 4 or 5 spot so his chances for RBIs will still be there so the only question is who will be hitting in front of him. He is a career .247 hitter and in his first two years with the Angels he was much better with runners on and in scoring position. The past two seasons he has leveled out to be the same type of hitter regardless of whether the bases were empty or full. Like Bruce, his totals will come from his spot in the lineup, and he will almost certainly secure a prime spot.
Both players hit in a good spot in the lineup and have the ability to drive in 90 or more runs. Given their track records, the miserable records their teams had and the drive to improve upon last season, I’d expect nothing less from either player.
Jay Bruce scored 71 runs in 2014 in just under 500 at bats. That was his lowest total since 2010 when he scored 80 runs. With another 100 at bats he would have totaled runs in the 80’s which is right in line with what he’s done for years. A run total of around 85 is a good estimate when looking at Bruce, but I would not expect much more than that. While the Reds are looking to improve and have a strong top half for their lineup, the bottom half still needs some work. Devin Mesoraco was a nice surprise last season and gives the team one player that could drive Bruce home. Beyond that he’ll need a lot of luck to see his run total go any higher than it has been the past few years. I’m not disparaging his run total if that’s what you think, I’m just pointing out that there is no chance of Bruce seeing 90 or more runs.
Trumbo is in a similar situation in Arizona, talent at the top of the order but not much after that. Geraldo Parra was second on the team for runs in 2013 with 79 while Martin Prado was second in RBIs with 82. The 2013 team was in the middle of the pack for scoring runs so the current roster is not that far removed. New manager Chip Hale has some work to do, but he has some decent pieces to work with. In Trumbo’s final season with the Angels he scored 85 runs after averaging 65 the previous two seasons. It just goes to show you how important the men are hitting behind you as those players can make the difference between a 65 run and an 80+ run season.
On a different team, different year, different circumstances I could declare this one a draw. Maybe this will be much closer once we see where some of the free agents end up, what trades are pulled off during the winter meetings, and which prospects are ready to step up to the plate. The Diamondbacks have just a few more question marks than the Reds do, and because of this, their future is a little more cloudy when it comes to scoring runs. You can reassess things in March, but right now in November, one man’s team gives him the edge.
ADVANTAGE: BRUCE (for now)
You’re not going to get a pretty number from either man so temper your expectations. Jay Bruce fell apart in 2014 and managed to hit just .217. In his previous season, he put up batting averages of .262, 252 and .256. The .281 he hit in 2010 should just be ignored as this was a career year and there is no predicting these. The strikeout percentage has gone up each year since 2009 and in 2014 reached 27.3%. It was 26.5% in 2013 when he hit .262 so either things are finally catching up to him or there were other underlying factors in his drop in batting average. Bruce did manage to lower his swinging strikeout percentage from the previous year which is a plus. On the flip side he swung at less pitches inside the strike zone, but his contact percentage for these pitches was up from the previous year and in line with his career totals. I mentioned Bruce’s GB and FB% when I talked about his home runs. Both of these numbers were off from his career totals. While you can track the drop in his FB%, the spike in ground balls came out of nowhere. This could be a problem if it becomes a trend, but for now will dismiss it as an abnormality. His overall contact percentage was normal (well, normal for Bruce) and other than the higher strikeout totals, there is nothing to suggest that 2014 was anything other than an off-year.
Trumbo batted .235 in 2014. This was in line with the .234 he hit in 2013 but a far cry from the .268 and .254 he hit in previous years. His strikeout percentage spiked in 2012 and 2013 reaching 27.1%, but that was down to 24.6% in 2014 (still high, but a noticeable improvement). Like I stated above, his batted ball profile has been pretty consistent, but his LD% has been dipping the past few seasons. This could explain some of the drop in average as 75% of line drives go on to be base hits. Trumbo is swinging at less pitches outside the zone and at more inside the past few seasons. You would think being a little more selective would increase your batting average, unfortunately for him things have gone the other way. The contact percentage has remained steady and are very similar to Bruce. With the exception of being more selective on pitches he swings at in and outside the strike zone, Trumbo’s plate discipline hasn’t change much over the years. Considering how close his numbers are to Bruce, one could speculate a bump in batting average could be in order.
While Trumbo possesses similar contact skills, walk and strikeout rates and batted ball profiles, Bruce has been the beneficiary of the higher batting average. Bruce should return to his normal .250 ways, but we’ve all see the hell a high strikeout total can do to a mans batting average and confidence (see Chris Davis). Trumbo holds a career .247 average, a few ticks off of what Bruce averages. While he can do better than he’s done the past few years, we know that worst case scenario will see a .235 average. If I had to give someone an edge I would give it to Bruce, but they are just too close with their numbers that I can see either or both hitting in the .250 range.
Winner – Bruce?
Normally when you declare a winner, you have a player that has a clear advantage over the other. Bruce does have an advantage in the runs category, but that could easily change come spring training. Bruce also has a speed advantage, but like I started earlier it isn’t much and only that potential for more gave him the edge. Batting average? You could give it to Bruce for consistency, but Trumbo might have that same consistency if he played a full year in 2014 and bumped his average up 10 points. This is what it comes down to, 15 runs (maybe), 15 points of batting average (maybe) and a handful of stolen bases. I love Bruce, but considering the difference between these two players, is that enough to select Bruce 3 rounds earlier or place them 13 apart in the OF rankings? Either Bruce is being selected too high in drafts or Trumbo is being taken too low. There is probably a middle ground that has both of them going at about round 6, but that will only happen in a perfect world.
If you’re a Bruce fan and usually target him in drafts, my advice is to grab a different and potentially better player in the round you would target him, wait a few rounds and take Trumbo at a discount. It’s like buying generic frosted flakes, they’re basically the same thing but only cost half as much as the Kellogg’s brand. Sorry Jay, but you are just too expensive for my taste.
The Mortal Kombat Series