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
WAR: 11.1

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.


What a day for milestones throughout major league baseball! Well, how about the same game north of the border in Toronto for two major ones.

First, let’s start with Ichiro Suzuki who became the first player in ML history to record 10 straight 200-hit seasons, breaking his own record of nine straight. Ichiro continues to just hammer out hits and produce yearly since coming over to America to play for Seattle. The guy is rarely injured, rarely slumps and is on his way to Cooperstown after he retires. Just when you think age will catch up to Ichiro, he fires out another incredible season. His holds a career slash line of .331/.376/.430. He has more 200-hit seasons than Ty Cobb and is tied with hit king Pete Rose as the only other play with 10 seasons of at least 200 hits. Amazing.

Another incredible performance took place in the same game as Ichiro’s milestone in Toronto as Jose Bautista continued his meteoric breakout season with his 50th home run of the season Thursday. Not only was it his 50th blast of the year, easily leading the majors in homers, but it came off of fireballer Felix Hernandez and was the winning run for the Jays in a 1-0 victory over the Mariners. It will be hard to explain what exactly has happened north of the border this year with the Jays going homer crazy, but Bautista was a guy who had 59 home runs through six ML seasons and now this. His career high in one season was 16 homers and he triples that total for 50 out of nowhere. In a season of record no-hit and low-hit ballgames, this feat is even more special. I don’t think you will find too many people (even Blue Jays fans!) out there who think this is what to expect from Joey Bats year in and year out from now on. I sure don’t and that’s just my opinion, but we’ll eventually find out if this is the real Bautista or an incredible fluke of massive proportions. Of course as a Pirates fan, this is not even surprising to any of us. Not that anyone saw this kind of season on the horizon for Bautista, but it’s just about right considering he used to hit .230 with 15 homers for the Bucs.

Let’s take a look at some of the hitters around the league who enjoyed the month of May. I’ll start with the American League:

Justin Morneau – There may not be a hotter hitter on the planet right now. All Morneau did in May was hit .400/.496/.710 with six home runs and 19 RBI. His ridiculous .400 average leads the AL. He’s actually been solid all season with a line of .372/.483/.691 with 13 HR and 40 RBI. The question surrounding the Twins first baseman is will he not slow down in the second half or stay healthy unlike the past couple of seasons?

David Ortiz – Remember when Big Papi was struggling and Boston fans were up in arms over it? Well, after a disastrous April in which Ortiz hit just .143 with a lone home run, Papi broke out in May with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs. The Red Sox designated hitter wasn’t all power either as he hit .363/.424/.788.

Jose Bautista – The former Pirate Joey Bats is enjoying his best season in the majors to date with the Blue Jays. Bautista led the American League with 12 home runs in May along with 25 RBIs despite a .263 average. Bautista’s previous career high in homers was 16 with the Pirates in 2006, a number he has also surpassed with AL-leading 18 homers north of the border. He’s just one of the many sluggers in Toronto’s lineup that has the team leading the majors in home runs.

Kevin Youkilis – I wasn’t going to mention Youkilis here until I saw his on-base percentage at a ridiculous .521 clip in May. I thought Morneau’s OBP was high until I saw Youk’s. The Greek God of Walks (as he is known) walked 31 times in 28 games throughout May while also hitting seven home runs and 17 RBI for a stat line of .329/.521/.683. With Youkilis and Ortiz murdering the ball in May, no wonder the Red Sox have turned their early season struggles around.

Vladimir Guerrero – Vlad just continues to rake no matter what team he’s a part of. He hit a ton of home runs with the Expos back in the day, then he hit more than 30 as a part of the Angels, now the career .322 hitters is on his way to possibly doing it with the Rangers. Vlad was money in May, hitting .330/.339/.633 with 10 home runs. His 31 RBIs in the month also leads the AL. Count me in as one person rooting for the Rangers to win the AL West this season.

And last, but not least, the senior circuit:

Joey Votto and Jonny Gomes – It’s no surprise to find two Reds on top of the May totals considering the success Cincinnati is currently having only one game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. Both sluggers’ stat line are very similar as they currently have been powering the Reds. Gomes hit .364/.420/.636 with five homers and 22 RBI while Votto went .344/.412/.600 with six homers and 21 RBI. Votto isn’t a surprise at all being one of the game’s good young hitters, but while Gomes has always been a home run threat he’s never really hit for average. Time will tell if he can keep it up with his career high in games being 117 in 2006 with the Rays.

Jason Heyward – Well this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Heyward’s rookie storybook season continues with a solid May in which he hit .337/.453/.628 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. Despite hitting only four home runs, Heyward is really getting the extra bases. Of his 29 hits through May, 14 of them were for extra bases (seven doubles, three triples and four home runs). Plus like a lot of young hitters are, Heyward is not a free swinger as he walked 16 times while striking out just 10 times in May. Can you say National League Rookie of the Year?

Troy Glaus – Another Braves slugger is on his list as Troy Glaus turned his early disappointment with a scorching May. Hey, someone has to pick up the production that Chipper Jones has apparently lost. Glaus launched six home runs with a NL-leading 28 RBIs in May, which is six RBIs more than the next hitter. Glaus also hit .330/.408/.534 and is looking like a great pickup for the first-place Atlanta Braves.

Corey Hart – No, not the wedding singer. If you were asked prior to this who led the NL in home runs in May, I doubt Corey Hart was moving around in your head. The Brewers outfielder is putting together a stellar season as he currently leads the NL overall with 14 home runs. That is due to his power outburst in May where he hit 10 home runs with 22 RBIs. Despite hitting just .253 in the month, he went on to slug his way at a .659 mark. He’s been a bright spot on an otherwise dismal start to the Brewers year.

Cristian Guzman – Remember this guy who would rack up double-digit triples like clockwork with the Twins back in the day? Well believe it or not but Guzman led the NL in average with a .381 mark in May. His full line reads .381/.411/.452 and as you can see from the slugging percentage, he’s not getting it done with triples and homers. He had only five extra-base hits out of his 32 hits in May. Four doubles, one triple and zero home runs and 27 singles. Despite getting it done station to station, he’s been a nice spark plug for the Nationals this year.