It’s official. Jose Bautista‘s 54-home run season last year was no fluke. His three home runs Sunday gives him 16 in less than two months, which is good for first in the majors. He’s doing it again. Actually, he’s only on pace to shatter that mark along with the single-season home run total by a cool eight bombs. Rational thinking would suggest that he won’t get there, but at this point I really cannot doubt this guy and the incredible run he’s been on over the past two years. Oh, plus he’s only hitting .368 this season.
Sure, as a lifelong Pirates fan, I could be bitter. Why? Because the Jose Bautista that played for the Pirates for parts of five seasons was nothing special. In 400 games over five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bautista hit just 43 HR with a slash line of .241/.329/.403. After struggling through another season in 2008, he was dealt to the Blue Jays on Aug. 21, 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Yes, Robinzon with a Z. The change of scenery didn’t seem to help Bautista in the last month with Toronto or in 2009 where he still hit 13 HR with a .235 average…similar numbers to his years in Pittsburgh.
Then something seemed to just click, but it started before the 2010 season. I traced the date back to Sept. 7, 2009 when things all changed for Joey Bats and whatever change he made began paying off. From Sept. 7 to the end of the 2009 season, Bautista hit 10 home runs in 98 at-bats over his last 21 games to close out the season. This was after he only had three home runs on the year prior to Sept. 7.
Since then he has become the man, the myth and the legend in Toronto. He’s gone from the bottom of the order throw in to the premier hitter in the Blue Jays lineup and the guy opposing teams worry about and put a game plan together on how to pitch to him. He’s quickly becoming a household name. Just consider these ridiculous numbers:
Through his career until 2009 he hit 59 home runs total in 1,638 at-bats. A rate of one home run every 27.7 at-bats (nothing special). The past two seasons, he’s belted 70 home runs in 683 at-bats…a rate of just 9.75 at-bats per homer. That’s a dramatic difference. That’s Babe Ruth type home run numbers. Add in those last 21 games of 2009 when things started to click and he has 80 dingers in 781 at-bats or a rate of 9.76. Here’s the breakdown with his slash line added in…
Career until the end of 2009: HR every 27.7 AB w/ .238/.329/.400
WAR (Wins above replacement): -1.7
2010 and 2011 seasons: HR every 9.75 AB w/ .276/.402/.646
What a ridiculous improvement. Teams and players alike fantasize about sluggers suddenly turning into this kind of legit power hitter. Look at the difference in the slash lines. His average went up about 40 points, his OBP skyrocketed 70+ points and his slugging percentage goes up about .250 in production. It’s absolutely remarkable.
Those lines tell me these are two completely different players. So what changed? It wasn’t playing time because he played full seasons in Pittsburgh with even one year of 600 plus plate appearances. It wasn’t a change of scenery because the old Jose Bautista showed up for at least a year in Toronto before he started launching the ball at an unreal rate.
Is it steroids? I’m sure there will always be people who wonder that his sudden power is because of the juice, but he plays in a league that now tests for steroids throughout the year. If he’s never been suspended for testing positive then you can’t use steroids as the easy answer for his turnaround.
I’m no scout, but he obviously made adjustments with new coaches in Toronto, he started pulling the ball more and he started gaining confidence, which can make any hitter dangerous. I honestly don’t think he would have ever been this new player if the Pirates had held onto him. He had his chances and didn’t take advantage of it. Plus, the Pirates just aren’t that lucky ever. Simply put to me, he just looks like a completely different ball player than when he was in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits.