Expect More Human than Home Run from Bautista
We’ve been seeing some great clutch run production from that Spanish speaking guy in the middle of the order. You know, the guy with the beard, who used to play third base for us, and has been known to play a bit of first…that’s right, I’m talkin’ Edwin Encarnacion. Don’t get me wrong I’ve loved watching Jose Bautista through his renaissance. He’s been a dominant player who’s hit like Ruth, but behaved like Key.
I look forward to seeing Jose continue his amazing performance…but there’s this nagging feeling that has me thinking he might fall on hard times this year. I hope it’s not the case, but let’s dissect his amazing 2011. His obp/slg/ops line of .447/.608/1.056 was stupendous, and would hardly seem like something that would support my concerns. But it really was a tale of two seasons divided by the All star break. In the 65 games following the break, Bautista’s numbers slid notably .419/.477/.896. At this point, you insult my manhood by reminding me that this “slump” still produced an nice OPS. I don’t disagree with the quality of that number, but consider that its make up consisted of a moderate SLG of 0.477. The impressive OPS.is generated primarily from an OBP of 0.419. That’s a great number that would lead to the insistence that he was beginning to hit for average, not power. Unfortunately, his batting average over that stretch was a paltry 0.257. This means that a disproportionately large number of his trips on base came via the walk. Okay so he’s still got his great eye! But I’m not even so sure about that. An argument could be made that those walks came as a result of pitchers pitching around Jose and not his keen eye. In this case, it wasn’t Jose’s discerning eye that generated the walks so much as the desire of pitchers to stay off the plate. Anecdotally I don’t think his eye was particularly Bautistian during that second half. It was a common occurrence to see Jose death stare back at an umpire after a called strike that genuinely looked like a strike even in my biased opinion. He was constantly diving out of the way of inside pitches that would break back over the plate. This did not look like a guy with an eye that should earn him one walk for every five times at the plate.
It seemed that when pitchers finally challenged Bautista with hittable pitches, he would regularly fail to capitalize on them. This guy was a shell of his first half self and the argument that the numbers were still pretty good can be countered with a number of external influences beyond his own work.
If it’s true that Jose really was getting beaten when challenged by pitchers, how long before the league catches wind of this and begins challenging him again? Will he be up to it?
Hopefully this was just a slump. Hopefully Jose was just getting sick and tired of being pitched around and began losing his plate discipline. Maybe his ankle injury (incurred making a sliding catch during the all star game or sliding into third in the first game after the break) hindered his swing mechanics. But what if it was something else? What if the league figured out what works? What if the sign stealing accusations actually held some weight? The first article I read about it came on July 15 during the series immediately following the break when Russell Martin launched some accusations the Jays’ way. The timing of this article may just be a coincidence, but it certainly makes more sense than trying to link the drop off to the “Man in White” articles of mid-August.
Obviously I’m rooting for Jose Bautista but looking at the numbers-he genuinely looked much less impressive following the All Star game last season. My worry is that this might be his new normal. Having said that, Jose is now part of a team that looks like it will be able to offer far more balance throughout the lineup, rotation and bullpen. Combine those with what should be a vastly improved defence, and we should be in for an exciting season even if we are treated to a more human Jose Bautista.
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