Tag Archives: Jay Bruce

Weekend notes: Collmenter’s delivery and Johnson’s plate discipline

Diamondbacks' pitcher Josh Collmenter delivery is odd in comparison to the rest of the league - it certainly got one Write Fielders' attention.

LIVINGSTONE: After watching the Jays drop the series finale of the opening weekend series to the Cleveland Indians 4-3, The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks game came on and after watching Josh Collmenter throw his first inning, I had to sit down and write about him.

In the many years I’ve watched baseball, there are a number of unorthodox pitchers that come to mind – Hideo Nomo with his near corkscrew pitch delivery, Giants Tim Lincecum with his rocket launchpad approach, Brad Ziegler and Peter Moylan’s submarine-style delivery, the list could go on.

But looking back over the years, I can’t think of anyone with a delivery like Collmenter. While his delivery isn’t as, well, below the belt as the submarine, it is less than normal. When he throws a pitch – either the fastball or change-up, both pitches he relies on heavily – his arm looks like that of a cricket bowler (ie: the guy who launches the cricket ball), a near-mechanical looking delivery. Coming out of his wind-up, his arm doesn’t sit outside his shoulder, but seemingly right in line with it. The over-the-top delivery is uncommon in baseball and certainly can be deceptive to hitters.

There is a certain amount of expectation surrounding Collmenter. Since his days pitching for the Homer High School Trojans, where The Homer, Michigan native put up eye-opening numbers. Collmenter won 18 games in the 2004 season, the third highest total in state history. He recorded a state-record 13 shutouts that season while striking out 223 batters and notching a 0.13 ERA. Collmenter finished his High School career with 49 wins, 23 shutouts, 546 strikeouts and a 0.99 ERA, all of which rank in the top six in state history.

His minor league stats weren’t nearly as lights out – he went 45-27 between 2007 and 2010 with one Trilple-A appearance in 2011 before being called up to the Diamondbacks – but they were enough to get him a spot in the starting rotation where he went 10-10 last season, striking out 100 in 154-plus innings, helping the D’Backs win the National League West division.

He’s a fun kid to watch pitch and with some work on refining his curveball into a quality breaking pitch to compliment his fastball, change-up and cutter, Collmenter will be a top-three starter during his career.

That all said, I want to fast-forward back to the Jays opening series, briefly, to spare our readers the saturation of Jays talk.

Despite being three games into the season, Jays second baseman – and number two hitter – Kelly Johnson is showing some incredible plate discipline. While he’s 5-for-14 with a home run, he’s got four walks, most of them long plate appearances, drawing it out to eight or nine pitch at-bats before taking his base. The biggest one was in the ninth today against the Indians, taking a walk on a 12 (I think) pitch at-bat with two out to load the bases for Jose Bautista. While Bautista flied out (to the moon) to end the game, it wasn’t a total loss.

Hitting in front of one of the most dangerous bats in the game requires you to get on base as much as possible. If the opening series is any indication (Johnson’s OBP is over .500) Bautista is going to have ample opportunity to put runs on the board – or get walked (he’s got four walks in three games), paving the way for Lind, Encarnacion and Lawrie to empty the bases.

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Reds’ Bruce poised – finally – for ‘big’ year

Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce is poised for his biggest season yet - and a shot at the homerun title in the NL. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

LIVINGSTONE: He’s marching into his fifth season with the Cincinnati Reds, and despite his biggest year at the plate last season, OF Jay Bruce is poised to make more noise than he ever has before, and vault him into the National League elite – and, per my prediction – the league homerun crown.

Looking at ESPN’s statistics on what stadiums are most hitter-friendly, Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati ranks the third most-friendly to hitters (1.314) behind Coors Field (1.354) and The Ball Park in Arlington (1.500). The advantage to hitters who play 82 games a season is obvious, looking at Bruce’s numbers over the past four years (see baseball-reference.com). Hitting with the likes of Brandon Phillips, and perennial first baseman Joey Votto, along with Drew Stubbs and Ryan Ludwick, Bruce has the opportunity to capitalize on a line-up ripe with strong bats, forcing pitchers to pitch to him, rather than around him.

This all said – Bruce had a big year last and some would argue my pick for breakout player, well, he’s already broken out. He hit .252, 33 HR and 97 RBI last season. However, he struck out twice as much (158) than he walked (71) and his average dipped 25 points from his career-high in 2010 (.281).

There is a lack of plate discipline there, something it seems he’s worked on over the winter and through spring training. If he can shave down his strikeout total, and avoid swinging at pitches out of the zone, Bruce has the potential, tied in with the bats around him, to bring his average up and add to his round-trip total this year. He only bagged 26 doubles last season, a number that could easily rise close to 40 if he’s patient.

And let’s not forget what division Bruce plays in. the Central is seemingly weaker this year than it has been the last couple of years, especially with teams like Pittsburgh and Houston settling into a long year battling it out for last (who are we kidding – the Astros will finish dead last – in the league). Minute Maid Park in Houston and Wrigley Field will prove advantageous to Bruce, however, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Busch Stadium in St. Louis will favour pitchers over hitters, so this potential advantage might be a wash.

Regardless, Bruce is in for a big year and I think he’s got serious potential to hit .290 or higher, as long as he can show some plate discipline, and pop for 40 HR – or more. I think come September, Bruce will be in the thick of the homerun race.

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