So, today I wrote about Jay Bruce at my website, but in the comments we began to discuss some of the changes in approach from Bruce. If we all recall, in his debut, Bruce went 3-3 with 2 walks. In those three hits, two of them were hard hit balls to left field. As a prospect, Bruce was known to use the entire field and early on in his Major League career, he also showed a propensity to go the other way. Today however, he is very much a pull hitter.
So I wanted to look back and see what has changed. Numerically, from 2008 to 2012, Bruce has gone from 20% opposite field (Baseball Reference) to 12% opposite field. That is a very big drop off. While we are talking limited sample sizes, Bruce had more success going the other way in 2008 (.344) than in 2012 (.286), but did show more power in 2012 than 2008 when it came to going the other way (of course, he showed way more power overall too, which is to be expected given 21 and 25 are very different ages for power output).
So I then went back to the video. I broke them down frame by frame (30 frames per second in these videos). Mechanically, Bruce was rather similar. Hand position, swing angle, feet positioning, step, weight shift... all very, very similar. The one thing that I did notice though, and it wasn't much of a difference, was that Bruce in 2008, seemed to be "leaned" a little more over the plate once he began to swing from his waist to his shoulders. We are talking about 10-15 degrees difference here, in this direction --> /
The difference was subtle, but I was able to pick up on it. I have to think, and it makes sense in my head, that the extra lean over the plate that he had then made him more proficient on pitches on the outer half and allowed him to hit the ball with a little more authority the other way than he is able to do now.
I am sure some of you also have thoughts on Bruce over the years, so let's talk about it. What do you see being different? You can see all of his MLB.com video highlights here, going back to his rookie year, if you want to look at his swings.