Predicting Bautista

Even before Jose Bautista signed his five year $65 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, fans, bloggers, writers and likely a fair share of MLB front offices were predicting what the future would hold for the surprising home run king of 2010.  While it’s almost certain that Bautista will both regress back to human numbers as well as decline over the course of the five year contract, the more immediate and pressing question is how will he perform in 2011.

Despite frightening comparisons to Carlos Pena and Rich Aurilia, there exists a uniqueness to Bautista’s mind blowingly unexpected absolute assault on pitchers last season in that despite previous opportunities, he never came close to accomplishing what he did in 2010.  As much fun as baseless speculation is, there is a science to projecting how a player will perform in the coming year.  Several organizations and publications have come up with algorithms that use factors like a player’s past numbers, similarity to other players throughout history, age, regression, park effects, and several others to predict future performance.

Two of the more respected publicly available projection systems are Tom Tango’s Marcel, which is the basis for most of the current systems, and the numbers from Bill James’ annual forecasting, which is one of the first attempts at seriously projecting future performance.  Recently, FanGraphs has added a feature in which mere mortals can guess as to what they think a particular player’s numbers will be.  The site then accumulates the results and posts them in the player profile page, right next to the Marcel and James predictions, as well as the forecast from RotoChamp, a system more closely associated with fantasy baseball.

Let’s take a look at the results for a smattering of Jose Bautita’s projections for next year:

RotoChamp 66 29 3 39 84 109 0.270 0.383 0.571 107.8 0.408
Bill James 66 32 2 34 80 119 0.251 0.355 0.509 96.2 0.373
Marcel 65 25 2 30 72 112 0.246 0.346 0.486 84.9 0.362
All Fans 75 30 4 36 88 126 0.257 0.362 0.515 106.4 0.378
Other Fans 76 30 4 35 86 127 0.258 0.362 0.512 104.9 0.377
Team Fans 73 32 4 37 92 122 0.258 0.368 0.524 110.7 0.384

As you can see, the fan projections are split between Blue Jays fans and fans of other teams who have taken the time to fill out their guesses.  The other numbers, which are close in several categories, have all been calculated through a system similar to what I described above.

So, now that you’ve seen what the experts and consensus says, what kind of season do you think Jose Bautista will have?

Comments (34)

  1. I’m going with 35HR, .870 OPS

  2. 54 will be hard to duplicate but I really think that 40 is within reach. His AB/HR has been ridiculous since Sept. 09 and through 2010, for me that just cannot be ignored. 35-40 dingers and an wOBA of around .380+ would be pretty fucking good with me! Also, I know everyone likes to harp on his past track record (or lack thereof), but can’t someone just “figure it out” like Bautista has in the past year and a half? Go Jays!

  3. Can’t believe how low those estimates are. The guy hit 50 + last year. That power isn’t going away and he constantly solved pitchers.

    I’ll say 45, 900 OPS.

  4. I think the RotoChamp proj., the most optimistic in the table, will be the closest. I can see 40 HR with similar OPS in my loving and biased eyes.

  5. Some other projections:

    CAIRO: 33 home runs, .373 wOBA

    PECOTA predicts a .360 wOBA and a home run total that currently escapes me.

    I think 28 home runs, .370 wOBA.

  6. I’d guess just about exactly what Bill James predicted.

  7. .375 OBP, .550 SLG, 35 home runs.

  8. I drafted him in Fantasy Baseball last night, so I am hoping for 35+ HR’s but I think that 28-30 is more realistic. It’s an AL only league and I got him with the 19th pick, so anything above 25 for a 3B is fine with me.

  9. I’m predicting he smashes a ball so hard it explodes and takes his head off … sometime in May. Based on that, it’s not worth projecting.

  10. Are the Bill James projections always above the marcel projections?

  11. Thanks! My fantasy team looks great with the James projections. Not so much with the marcel projections.

  12. I think you guys are almost all overstating Bautista’s power numbers. Let’s try to find guys who have come out of nowhere to hit a ton of home runs at age 29, and continued to do so afterward at a similar pace. How many in modern baseball history have done this?

  13. @Parkes: Us and everyone else then, according to the chart above.

  14. I looked at his blow-out and some interesting comps at some length here –
    In short, he’s just as likely to be another Sammy Sosa or David Ortiz as he is to be a Brady Anderson or Rich Aurilia.

  15. This is kind of interesting. It’s about the accuracy of hometown fans vs. the accuracy of more objective ones:

  16. There is no comparison, no precedent for the adjustment Bautista apparently has made that really has just unlocked a very high ceiling that most players dont have or reach. Doesn’t mean that it wont happen, new precedents are set all the time in all sorts of disciplines. I believe we are seeing one – lots of people dont see it happening, I hope/think they are wrong.

  17. I agree with Quatre: there just isn’t a lot of precedent for what he’s done. How many players have done what he’s done (success in minors but not as much in majors, with maturity find a better approach, mash) at younger ages? I bet there are a lot more. And his body-type is so different from a guy like Pena (and Pena was older) that I don’t think that’s a great comparison.

    Seems like there is too much emphasis on the fact that he did it at 29. So? He didn’t do it at 36. He still has many productive years ahead of him, even if his body does inevitably decline.

    • Pena was 29 when he had his big HR year. They’re obviously different hitters: RH vs. LH, and at the time, Pena’s new approach to the plate was credited with the increased production. And he’s still a good player, just nothing like what he did in that one season.

      The reason I talk about him being 29 so much is that players don’t typically find new life at 29. Even with Ortiz and Sosa as earlier examples, those guys were hitting a lot of HRs before their break out year which was past a typical player’s peak. It’s kind of silly to suggest that it’s all adjustment based because anyone who has ever had one good season says the exact same thing: “I changed my approach at the plate.”

      Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be . . . er . . . wrong. But I think baseball history compels Bautista to regress back to more earthly numbers.

  18. Dustin – of course he’ll regress. Almost every player in the history of the game, after hitting 50+ home runs, has regressed a bit. But how much is the question. I have not read anyone reputable that think he’ll have less than half of what he did last year. Most are in the 30-35 range. Who, in their right minds, would be disappointed with 35 homers?

  19. “history compels him”, does it?

  20. Parkes, you continue to reach for comparables that simply don’t exist with Bautista.

  21. Oh, and I’ll go with a conservative .250/.360/.530 with 30 HR.

  22. Two words Ted Kluszewski.

    And .260/.400/.525 because they will start intentionally walking this guy so lefties can pitch to Adam Lind.

  23. The scary thing about a potential Bautista regression is what he may regress to. Even when Brady Anderson regressed to his career norms he was hitting 15-25 HRs a year with .360 +OBPs (his career OBP was .380). Before 2010,Bautista barely showed a tick above league average on-base skills, and his wOBA and power numbers were league average at best. Nowhere near the 30 home run, 350 OBP estimate conservative systems are predicting this year. If Bautista really is prone to regression (which history suggests he is) to his pre 2010 form, we are looking at 16-20 HR and a 330 OBP and that could be a big problem for the Jays moving forward.

  24. I thought this guy was completely useless when he arrived from Pittsburgh. Long swing, bad eye, awkward looking in the box. I think he’s a completely different player now. They’ll pitch him tougher, but there’s also a lot of crap starting pitching in baseball. If JBau stays healthy and doesn’t hit 40, I’d be very surprised. He’ll top all those predictions, and comfortably.

  25. Surprised no one predicted him to reach 100 walks this year. Marcel has him pegged at 72 BB’s. Is this due to the thinking that pitchers this year will have a better idea of how to pitch to him as opposed to last year when they tried not serve up anything decent for him to knock out?

  26. 42 Dingers!

    Hes one bad man. Go Jays!

  27. Not sure if Dustin or any of the other contributors are still at the comments for this post… but if so, Id be interested in learning what past predictions Marcel and James have had for players and how accurate they were. Id be interested in the non Rodriguez, Pujols, Mauer types….

  28. Okay Parkes, gimme a date for 20 dingers on Joey Bats and we’ll do an over/under. Loser eats his shoe for charity (a la Werner Herzog). Slow-braised in Merlot, of course.

  29. Okay, I say 20 before June 25. Takers?

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