With the talent that the Cincinnati Reds have, many genuinely predicted that their biggest shortcoming would be manager Dusty Baker. With the kind of hitters they have in their lineup — Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo — it would take substantial mismanagement or under-performance to keep them away from the top of all offensive categories.
Their problem thus far, however, has been the early-season struggles of OF Jay Bruce.
Bruce has a curious array of statistics that have led to his .248/.301/.366. He is a career .255 hitter, but his .248 this season is aided by an insane .362 BABIP. He is striking out at a 31.4 percent clip, compared to his career rate of 23.8 percent. Often, early season strikeout rates come with the caveat of small sample size, but Bruce has always struggled with this, and strikeouts are becoming increasingly prevalent across baseball.
Additionally, Bruce relies on a large number of fly balls — 43.2 percent career 3 and then converts about 1/6 of those into home runs. In 2013, Bruce is hitting only 1/3 flyballs, with just about six percent of those turning into home runs. This can be somewhat attributed to early season cold weather and an increased line drive rate, but this trend is certainly unnerving.
The overwhelming likelihood is that Bruce turns it around and has a year similar to his previous few. However, the increased strikeout and decreased fly ball numbers are unnerving, especially if they continue into the summer months.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.