It’s playoff time! And naturally that means the Jays are no longer in it. But that doesn’t mean things around here are going to stop, and just like last year, to get you set up for each (non-weekend) night’s playoff action, I’m going to be taking a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2014 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise. Tonight: Jose Bautista.
8:00 PM ET – San Francisco @ Pittsburgh – Madison Bumgarner (4.0 rWAR) vs. Edinson Volquez (2.5 rWAR)
Jose Bautista seems like the appropriate guy to start off our Playoff Post(-Mortem) series with, and not just because he was in the news today, or because he’s awesome and this will be a real easy one to crank out. But he is all those things. What he’s maybe not is what you’ve heard a lot of the local media talk about lately: coming off the best season of his career.
That stuff comes down to intangibles, it seems, and there’s no doubt that he’s impressed in that regard this year.
The infamous agitation with umpires was kept to a minimum, fully manifesting itself only in a late-August ejection (which, as I wrote at the time, put him among the ranks of “fellow non-leaders Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, and Russell Martin in getting tossed from a game this year”). And Bautista showed a much greater willingness to try to beat the shift, with 22.8% of his hits going to the opposite field, as opposed to 12.8% and 12.5% in the previous two seasons, according to the batted ball data at FanGraphs.
I’ve heard it suggested that this means Bautista was putting the team first and not playing for his own statistics, which is funny, because that’s exactly what Colby Lewis thought Colby Rasmus was doing by laying down a bunt to beat the shift in a July game against the Texas Rangers. Whatever narrative works for you, I guess, but it’s not like you can see anything in Bautista’s numbers that any of his own statistics were sacrificed: his statistics are still awesome!
His 6.3 fWAR is nearly identical to the 6.5 mark he put up in his breakout, 54 home run 2010 season, and the differences between the two seasons are probably about what you’d expect: he’s lost quite a bit of power (from 54 HR to 35, and .357 ISO to .239), but made up for it by walking more (15.5% to 14.6%), striking out less (a career best 14.3% to 17%), and hitting far more singles (96 to 56).
He was helped by UZR, which liked him more in 2014 than in 2010, but hurt by DRS, which is used by Baseball Reference’s version of WAR. In fact, according to BR, he was about a win worse than in his breakout campaign — a “mere” 6.0 WAR, compared to 6.9.
No, it wasn’t quite his monstrous 2011 year — a .427 on-base with a .610 SLG, 43 homers, a .302 average, 7.7 WAR by FanGraphs and 8.1 by BR, and the highest Win Probability Added (7.86) of any player over the last five seasons — which is, of course, the correct answer to the question about his best season, but it was really, really, really good.
Jose is just about absolutely as good as it gets, and a major key that needs to be mentioned is that for the first time since 2011 he was healthy. Impressively for all three of the seasons he’s had since his breakout in which he’s played at least 120 games, he’s been a six win player by both versions of WAR.
He earns just $14-million per year from the Jays. He is the 59th highest paid player in baseball.
That there are fans and commentators out there who dream up reasons for this organization to get rid of him based on completely invented garbage about what they want to believe he does or doesn’t do behind closed doors, and who believe that there exists a universe in which this Blue Jays team is better without him than with him, is absolutely fucking ludicrous.