From 2010-2015, Jose Bautista was one of the best power hitters in the game. If not for injury, it’s conceivable to think he could’ve had six consecutive 40+ home run seasons. For perspective, Babe Ruth has the record with seven seasons. The next two? Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. Things that make you go, hmmmmm. I’m not saying anything, but I just wrote something, so I am saying something without actually saying it. Hey! Look over there! Now that I’ve mind mind melded you, Bautista has a triple slash line of .215/.322/.383 with 17 home runs, 65 runs scored, 49 RBI, and five stolen bases for the 2017 season. What can we expect going forward?
Digging into the numbers, things don’t seem bad. 12.8% walk rate with a 23.1% strikeout rate look good on the surface, but the walk rate used to be in the 15-20% range while the strikeout rate used to be in the 15% range. The BB/K rate is 0.55 this season, that’s the lowest number since 2008. During the aforementioned 2010-2015 period, that ratio was close to one.
The ISO is at .167 this year. That’s the lowest mark since 2009 and the wOBA of .307 is the lowest since 2008. That corresponds with a hard hit rate of 32.7%, which is the lowest figure since……if you guessed 2008, then you deserve a cookie.
I’m a big plate discipline guy, so the first thing that jumps out to me is the swinging strike rate of 10.2%. For over a decade, that number has consistently been in the 7% area. That corresponds with a 7% decrease in overall contact rate. Now, the interesting thing is that he’s swinging 3% more, at pitches both inside and outside the zone.
When I go to brooksbaseball.net, I notice that pitchers are throwing fewer fastballs and changeups and throwing a ton more breaking pitches. The 48.91% of breaking pitches that he’s seen is the highest mark in his career. When I head over to baseballsavant.mlb.com, it starts to make sense. On four-seam fastballs, the batting average is .240. On two-seam fastballs, it’s .220. On cutters, .273. On changeups, a .297 average. Now, on sliders it’s .203 and on curveballs the average is .171.
My first thought was that he was losing some bat speed which was causing him to cheat on the fastball. This would make him more susceptible to the breaking stuff, but then I would think he wouldn’t be able to hit the changeup as well. I’m really not sure what to make of it except pitch recognition. Someone should take him to an optometrist.
The other curious thing when delving into Bautista is that he’s been dreadful against left-handed pitching. .168 average, .105 ISO, and a 25.9% strikeout rate. His career numbers are .257 average, .235 ISO, and 17.5% strikeout rate.
It’s gotta be the eyes, right?
Whatever the case may be, I don’t get the feeling that this is a case of bad luck or anything. Bautista is batting leadoff, which could give him more plate appearances and possibly score more runs, but you want home runs and RBIs from him. Unfortunately, even if he was allowed to use an aluminum bat, I don’t know how much more successful he’d be. I’m kidding, but not really, but since I wrote it….oh, never mind.