Is Jose Bautista’s 2010 Legit?


By R.J. Anderson //

Jose Bautista has been the biggest
surprise of any hitter in baseball this season. The 29-year-old’s
career has been anything but conventional. In 2004 he split time
between four of the worst teams in baseball (Devil Rays, Royals,
Orioles, and Pirates) and stuck with Pittsburgh until the 2008 season,
when he eventually wound up on the Blue Jays.

Entering this season, Bautista sported a career line
of .238/.329/.400 in 2,038 plate appearances. He’s hitting
.254/.364/.580 this season. A 4-for-4 explosion last night against
Baltimore hoisted his league-leading home run total to 30, with 75 RBI
for good measure. So where did this improvement come from, and is it
sustainable?

In cases where a player suddenly blows up, the easy
thing to do is peruse his underlying metrics and see which ones are
inflated. That’s a problem, though, because Bautista doesn’t appear to
be the usual blow-up candidate with fluky peripherals. His walk rate is
almost identical to last season, as is his strikeout rate, and his
BABIP is a career worst .233 – (vs. career BABIP of .273). The only
area which has seen change is his flyball rate, and by extension, his
power.

Bautista is hitting more flyballs than ever, 53.4%
(fourth-highest in MLB) vs. a career rate of 44.4%. Hitting that many
flyballs is an excellent way for a power hitter to smack more home
runs. But it’s bad for a player’s batting, average as most infield
flies are outs, and more than 70% of outfield flies are caught too.
Bautista’s 18.9% HR/FB rate is 6.8% higher than his career norm and
explains some of the newfound power, but not all of it.
HitTrackerOnline.com keeps count of home runs by batter and park. Below
are Bautista’s homers this season, pay close attention to the parks
column, which means Bautista isn’t just taking advantage of short
fences.

bautista1.png

One subtle factor that explains a large part of his
power streak is his sudden ability to hit right-handed pitching. For
his career, Bautista has hit .259/.358/.478 versus southpaws and
.230/.324/.401 versus righties. This season, Bautista is still hitting
lefties, but he has upped his game versus same-handed pitchers, batting
.243/.358/.558 through Monday. As is the case with his overall line,
nothing outside of the power sticks out in his line. He’s not getting
incredibly lucky with balls in play or walking a whole lot more than
usual.

That generally suggests a bona fide improvement. Even
still, it’s always important to consider the larger sample size.
Consider dealing Bautista if your leaguemates see him as a true
40-homer man.

For more information on Jose Bautista and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

1 Comment

Why doesn’t anyone mention the lost development time for Bautista when he was a Rule V pick straight out of A+ ball in 2003?

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