It isn't to say that I am against Jose Bautista, I simply approached both his hot September and incredible start to 2010 with extreme cynicism. Cynicism borne of 4 years worth of struggles and a dash of evidence to suggest what he did wasn't "special." I refused to get caught up in BAS-fever — not because of a selfish need to be right or a personal vendetta against the bearded wonder — but simply because it only made sense that his success was unsustainable.
Whelp, we're 100 games, 400 plate appearances and 28 home runs in at this point. Guess what? He's good. Be it a change in approach or whatever, Jose Bautista is a bona fide stud. Throw in his hilariously awesome arm (while ignoring his wholly average all-around play in the outfield) and you have a nice player.
At this point in the season, many of the "sample size!!1!" cries are quieting down. Over 400 plate appearances, it is safe to say much of what we're seeing is a legit reflection of his current skills and abilities. Which isn't to say he'll carry these rates forward into infinity - career years are career years. Using the incredibly valuable research of a guy named Pizza Cutter, we can look at certain rate and component stats and examine Jose's season for what it is: outstanding.
From the "When Samples Become Reliable Post" we know the following:
50 PA: Swing %Considering Jose Bautista has 405 plate appearances this year, let's examine his current rates against his career marks.
100 PA: Contact Rate
150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
200 PA: Walk Rate, Groundball Rate, GB/FB
250 PA: Flyball Rate
300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
550 PA: ISO
Swing% - 41.3% (40.5% career)Gee, what sticks out to you? The batted ball data is slightly crazy in terms of its break from the norm. It does suggest a change in approach, the Citocity Way blasting through like a bull in a hanging slider shop. The increase in fly balls not only fuels the precipitous falloff in BABIP but figures to keep it suppressed as well. The walk rate? Exceptional, I can't say I'm anything but impressed.
Contact - 80.5 % (79.8% career)
Strikeout Rate - 21.7% (24.2% career)
Line Drive - 15.5% (15.3% career)
Pitchers per Plate Appearance - 4.11 (4.13 career)
Walk Rate - 13.3% (11.3% career)
Groundball Rate - 31.0 % (40.1% career)
GB/FB - 0.58 (0.90 career)
Flyball Rate - 53.4% (44.7% career)
Home Run per Fly Ball - 18.9% (12.1% career)
Again I will offer the warning: this does not suggest Jose Bautista will continue this next year and into the free-agent future. It just means that what we see above "isn't a fluke" in the random fluctuations sense of the word. Are they "fluky" as in unrepeatable? Will holes in his swing grow in time? What if, just like teammate Aaron Hill, the balls start falling in front of the warning track rather than just beyond it?
Even with a good-sized arbitration raise, it is worth the Jays time to roll the dice for next year and figure out what the 2011 version of Bautista looks like. Should he keep walking and clouting and making crazy contact, it wouldn't be too surprising. If he puts together a strong first half, either trade suitors or Type B designation (fingers crossed) awaits.
Reuters photo via Daylife, data via Fangraphs and Baseball Reference