Monday, September 13, 2010
In spite of the spotty results, this weekend past was a pretty exciting one for Jays fans. Bautista bombs, massive (for naught) comebacks, walkoffs, and Shaun Marcum staying slightly ahead of the Danks Theory.
But the number one thing that caught my eye and kept my (non-Rocco) attention this weekend is what you see above: a 15 pitch battle between Jose Bautista and James Shields.
That Shields — the new Jeremy Guthrie rather than the poor man's Shaum Marcum1 — didn't give up more home runs to Jose Bautista is a small miracle. That this epic 15-pitch battle royale ended in a fly-out is mildly shocking, though it doesn't detract from the excellence of the performance by either man.
The Gameday image tells a story, but we need a little more detail. Below is my cleaned-up version, allowing us a better vantage point for each pitch. Please note I chopped the bottom 6 inches off the diagram. The low pitches weren't scraping the ground, in other words.
The first two things I notice are: James Shields nibbled like a champ and Jose Bautista has an incredible eye. The two pitches down below the zone are two-seam fastballs that net Shields all his ground balls. Sinking pitches which, if taken, pretty much set up the hitter for the four-seamer on the outside corner.
Shields threw the kitchen sink at Bautista, but the man kept fouling "pitcher's pitches" (the stuff in on his hands) until he just missed a pitch that caught more plate. 15 pitch at bats are rare, especially for a guy who Gets Cheated as rarely as Bautista.
15 is an interesting and telling number on its own as, in addition to the number of pitches in this particular battle, Jose Bautista's walk rate for the season is a sparkling 15%. That ranks second in baseball, ahead of Three True Outcome Tsar Carlos Pena and Mr. Universe Joey Votto. Rarefied company and portends of excellence, or at least stability, to come.
At some point last year I boastfully claimed that Jose Bautista's ability to draw a walk and not much else was of little value. A .352 ISO quickly put that to bed, but what does it mean for the future? Even if his ISO (ie. Power) takes a 100 point hit, he's still an excellent player. 6/7 Win player? I don't think so, but what we previous thought was his ceiling (25 home runs, .375 on base) can now, fairly, be considered a fair projection for his back to Earth season.
At least, we can hope so.
1 - Though I'm loathe to admit it, Jame Shields is much better than both those guys.
Image via Gameday, Pitch F/X goodies from Brooks Baseball