What I Like About Jose Bautista

After taking three straight balls from David Price, Jose Bautista stood in the batter’s box with a 3-0 count and didn’t even think about swinging at the next pitch, a changeup right down the centre of the plate. However, on the very next offering from Price, a changeup on the outside part of the strike zone, Bautista connected on his seventh home run of the season and the second of the Saturday afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was a funny moment, as Price shook his head and grinned like a man who knew he put his best effort out there and it still wasn’t good enough. The pitcher’s body language screamed, “What more could I have possibly done?”

James Shields answered the rhetorical question somewhat the next day by walking Bautista twice, the fourth and fifth time in the series, and sticking with a steady diet of changeups and cutters, just as Price had done, to collect the only two outs Bautista had against the Rays.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs asked the question yesterday that must have been on the minds of Tampa Bay’s pitching staff after this weekend: Is Jose Bautista the best hitter in the American League?

At the moment, there can be little doubt. Sure, we’re still in April, but Bautista is on another level right now. Having already collected 2.1 wins above replacement this season, he’s leading both leagues in home runs, isolated power, on base percentage, slugging percentage, weighted on base average and weighted runs created plus. This is phenomenal in and of itself, but his excellence goes beyond these mere numbers because Bautista is putting them up while seeing more than 10% fewer pitches in the strike zone than he did a year ago.

Last year, 45.3% of the pitches that Bautista was offered were in the strike zone. That means that pitchers were throwing him slightly fewer strikes than they would to the average hitter. So far this season, 34.7% of the pitches Bautista has faced have been located in the strike zone. In other words, every time Bautista goes up, almost two thirds of the pitches he gets aren’t in the strike zone.

How has Bautista responded? He’s simply swinging at less pitches (33.6% in 2011 vs. 41.7% in 2010), while maintaining relatively the same rate of contact for pitches inside the zone (85.7% in 2011 vs. 86.3% in 2010). This is, again, the signs of an incredibly smart baseball player, but what makes it exceptional is that he’s doing it all while connecting for even more isolated power than he did last year, when his .357 ISO beat the next closest hitter by .063. This year, his isolated power is a super human .424. Isolated power is meant to measure a player’s raw power without consideration of the other stuff. It’s calculated by this formula: ISO = (2B + (3B*2) + (HR*3)) / AB.

Remember those fantasy novels you read as a kid? Jose Bautista is the hero who was merely average in everyone else’s eyes before suddenly and definitely emerging as the greatest knight in the realm.

Everything being thrown at him is being handled and there doesn’t appear to be an easy chink in the armour. Consider the trend for pitchers to throw Bautista more changeups. According to TexasLeaguers.com, changeups have gone from 10.6% of the pitches that Bautista sees (in 2010) to 15.5% in 2011. While his whiff rate on the pitch is higher than any other type he faces, Bautista is still showing a marked improvement in his ability to hit changeups for power.

Consider this: last season Bautista drove only three changeups for home runs, this year, he’s already collected three touch ‘em alls off of changeups. Compare these two spray charts looking only at change ups that Bautista has made contact with.

In 2010:

So far, in 2011:

So, not only was last season a remarkable year for Bautsita, but he appears to have actually improved on the one weakness he was believed to have had. Those home runs on change ups aren’t the result of a guy simply powering them over the fence either. They’re pulled, signalling that Bautista is timing the slower pitches properly, as well.

Now, I have to stress that it’s still the very early going and eight home runs is a far cry from 30, let alone 54, but for Blue Jays fans, you have to absolutely love what you’ve seen so far from the best player on the team. And the way in which he’s doing it bodes extremely well for his chances of maintaining it for this season.

Aside from all the numbers, graphs and pitch selections, as a Jays fan, it’s hard to remember there ever being a hitter on this team, maybe Carlos Delgado in the late nineties and early aughties, as feared by opposing pitchers. While I remain skeptical that Bautista will be able too maintain these kind of numbers for the next four seasons after this one, I’m very much happy to be along for the ride right now.

Comments (69)

  1. Aren’t you the guy who didn’t want to sign Bautista and thought it was a bad deal? Shut up

  2. I’m still that guy.

  3. Fuck off Parkes

  4. Hey Parkes,

    Hate to knit pick, but you forgot a 2 in your ISO Power..
    “ISO = (2B + 3B + (HR*3)) / AB.”

    Should be:
    “ISO = (2B + (2*3B) + (HR*3)) / AB.”

    - Also, I thought Bautista was a bag of shit? Or something to that effect?

  5. In not even a month, he’s already been worth $10 million. But yeah.. BAHHH $65 million for a fluke!!!

  6. Question about WAR:

    Bautista already has 2.1 WAR this season (per Fangraphs). Is the stat accumulative? Like, is that 2.1 there to stay, no matter what he does throughout the rest of the season? Or could it go down if (theoretically) he all of a sudden stopped hitting?

  7. If he didn’t have another plate appearance this season, it would remain the same. But if he started shitting the bed it would go down. Although, he’d really have to defecate the shit out of that mattress. Think Carl Crawford at the beginning of the season.

  8. I love what Bautista is doing but judging the success or failure of a five year contract based on one month of baseball (not even) is not very sound.

  9. I don’t think anyone ever said Bautista and Bag of (blank) in the same sentence. What the argument boiled down to then and still boils down to now is Bautista’s value going forward. Age catches up to everyone now that we’ve banned those magical injections. Yes 23 games into a 810 game contract this looks like a steal but it would not be the first contract, nor the last, that teams eventually regret.
    All that said I love watching Bautista and it is absolutely amazing to have his bat in this line up. Now hopeful some of the core around him can develop and help him out.

  10. Can he put up another 7 WAR season this year? So far, it damn well looks like it. He’d have to put up a combined 8 WAR in 4 more seasons to be worth the contract. 8 WAR in 4 seasons after 2 consecutive 7 WAR seasons… that seems like a tough task doesn’t it?

  11. Ty
    as I understand it the WAR is there to stay in the sense that he has accumulated it but it will be against what he does the rest of the season. For example if he falls off a cliff and is a negative WAR like -.5 for the rest of the year his total will be 1.6. Carl Crawford is a negative WAR right now but once he gets started he almost certainly won’t be, the catch is because of his slow start there is no way he’s going to put up like a 6 or whatever he was worth last year. Then again I could be so far off it’s embarassing on this

  12. That’s not true at all.

    You’re forgetting that this season was an arb year. Jays could’ve gone to arbitration and only paid $7 million for him this year.

  13. That was obviously at Halycon, not Walker, who is exactly right.

  14. Last year Bautista had 100 walks. So far this year has 21BB (on pace for around 175BB). Will be interesting how many walks he ends up with at the end of the year.

  15. Hey Parkes, the Jays are only paying Bautista $8m this season. Your bullshit about this being a terrible contract makes you look like a total fucking idiot. You are not as smart as you think you are, and it’s obvious. Have fun trying to explain your way out of your knee-jerk reaction, clown!

    • I’d say calling someone a fucking idiot who has already laid out his reasoning for a not uncommon opinion might be a little more idiotic than whatever mistake you’re trying to suggest that I’ve made.

  16. The thing Parkes doesn’t consider about the Bautista contract is how much it improves his trade value. Just think of the hotshot prospects the Jays are going to get by trading the best hitter in the league who is locked up long term at a below market value. Damn, I can’t wait till he gets traded.

  17. My point is that your “reasoning” was, and clearly is, un-reasonable, and was/is actually complete bullshit. You carved Bautista’s contract to no end, saying he’ll regress, and decline. Face it, you won’t live that one down. Foot in mouth, for sure!

    Bautista isn’t worth risking $13m AAV through his age 34 season, eh smart guy? Like I said at the time, BULLSHIT!

    Keep trying to explain your bogus reaction to the signing away! Defensive looks great on you!

    • Much like being offensive looks good on you?

      I really don’t know why my opinion causes you to be so angry, but you obviously have no respect for me, so why do you care what I think?

      For the record, I’m not back tracking at all. And I’m pretty sure, that despite how good he’s been this month, Bautista will regress toward more normal numbers and one day decline with age as every player ever has.

  18. That is a fairly good, if ridiculously expressed, point Jeff makes about buying out the Arbitration year. My understanding was that there was a good possibility that the number would come in above $8 million in arbitration.

    If so, you’re buying out arbitration at a discount, you’re expecting at least some + value from this year, and the discussion changes. And you can still express legitimate doubts about whether the next $56 ($57?) million was money well spent.

    • @ Justin: It would’ve been either $10.5 or $8.6 million. What they’re paying him this year isn’t that bothersome. What bothers me is that they could’ve had this year on the cheap and not be locked in to paying the next four years at $14 million.

  19. “The thing Parkes doesn’t consider about the Bautista contract is how much it improves his trade value. Just think of the hotshot prospects the Jays are going to get by trading the best hitter in the league who is locked up long term at a below market value. Damn, I can’t wait till he gets traded.”

    it won’t happen, but if I was the Yankees I’d give anything for him. he was born to play in a team of players who will take their walks and crush mistakes – he’s a perfect fit here too as long as he keeps doing it, of course. Bautista and A-Rod back to back on the same team for 2011-2013 would be unforgettable. (after that, the decline in both would probably be too noticeable, though the walk rate would be there to stay.)

  20. Such negativity in these comments, seems like everybody has been just waiting for an “I told you so” opportunity with Parkes on this one. The contract is signed the season is under way, can we just enjoy the ride for a while

  21. It still amazes me that fans can be so incredibly short sighted. Yes the Bautista contract looks good this year, but this year was never the issue. As previously stated he would have been arb eligible for this year and made 8.6 or 10.5M, likely 8.6 but regardless. The issue with this contract is what happens 5 years from now. Players regress, players return to the mean, this isn’t a knock on Bautista it’s a fact.
    Again we are 23 games (which would have been arb eligible) into an 810 game contract. Perhaps we should hold on before we call this one. He does have roughly 97% of his contract still to play out.

    • @Dave Thank you for some sanity. Love this: “We are 23 games (which would have been arb eligible) into an 810 game contract. Perhaps we should hold on before we call this one. He does have roughly 97% of his contract still to play out.”

  22. Parkes, I really like your writing, but my English B.A. is screaming at me to take action right now.

    “. . .Bautista is putting them up while seeing more than 10% less pitches in the strike zone. . .”

    Not less. Fewer.

    Less is used for an uncountable noun like time, water, or music.

    Fewer is used for a countable noun like balls, strikes, or hits. Thus, the correct sentence would be “. . .10% fewer pitches in the strike zone. . .”

    Sorry to get all non-baseball nerdy, and keep up the good work.

  23. It’s all about thinking outside the box, Parkes!
    I was being sarcastic, but that’s okay if you didn’t get it.
    But can we all please stop talking about Bautista’s contract in relation to his performance. That is, unless you think there’s a direct correlation between your Rogers bill and money invested into the team.
    Instead, I encourage everyone to simply marvel at the incredible season Bautista is putting together.
    I know there’s still a long way to go, but the dominance of Joey Bats is starting to remind me of Halladay.

    • @JackClap: Cheering on a team is a vicarious experience, in which you take pleasure (or pain) from the achievements of others. Nobody is arguing that taking on a bad contract is going to have any literal effect on your cable bill. The argument is that in wanting your team to win games, you want your team to be able to get good players, overpaying for good players hurts your chances of getting more good players or better players. There’s more pleasure to be gained from extending this vicarious experience further into the front office decisions that I certainly enjoy.

  24. wow a reason to jump one Dustin? no i dont think so. Did i agree with his sentiment on the contract. NO – however I also debated with many other why I felt it was good – The contract was a risk – meaning he could have pulled a rios on us – but so far so good. The true benefit to signing him to this contract is the risk of him repeating last years gaudy numbers is not present. Meaning if Jose did eclipse 34-40 dingers while maintaing strong peripherals, he would have received a jason werth/vernon type contract. But AA took a calculated gamble and thus far it is paying off. On that note; all those that come on here just to insult Dustin are obviously jealous and need to stick to posting on bluejays.com – keep it up Dustin despite the fact you can’t please them all.

  25. Parkes made it out that it was CERTAIN that Bautista would regress in 2011, and begin to decline then as well. BULLSHIT! He is signed through his age 34 season, not 36 or 38.

    I wonder what Parkes’ posts would be like if Bautista was hitting .220/.300/.370?

    I wonder if he could resist the “I told you so” mantra?

    And I do respect your opinions, most of them are bang on. But you lost the right to do anything but stick with your original reaction, or admit you were wrong. You chose the “black or white” reactionary argument. And you will be forced to live with it.

    The $13m AAV makes it quite easy for Bautista to meet in performance, never mind the fact that it is the steal of the century if he continues on his destruction of AL pitching. I’m well aware that it is only the first month of a 5 year deal, but I’m also aware that Bautista doesn’t have to hit anywhere near this rate to be worth the 13 per.

    Parkes screamed bloody murder about the 5/65 (through Bautista’s age 34 season), and that will haunt him forever! Muahhahah!

  26. The Bautista contract is a worthwhile risk to take, and it always was. You can’t let potentially elite talent get away in that kind of situation, especially for something as reasonable as 5 years/$65M. I still believe that much of the criticism of the contract came because some people (including Parkes) were unrealistically expecting it to be much less than it was.

    In addition, for a team like the Jays (with absolutely no elite talent to speak of and no supposed spending cap from ownership), there is little risk. The contract was both necessary and essential to moving this team forward in the AL East.

    Now that Bautista seems to be one of the best hitters in baseball, if not the best, Rogers has no excuse not to go full out in 2012. Delgado’s and Halladay’s primes were wasted by them, let’s not make it a third star.

  27. I did a little boozy calculation last night while watching the game and at this rate he’ll be good for, oh, 80 or so home runs this season. If only there was another bat with half of his savvy in that lineup.

  28. That’s “sav-vy”, not “sawy”.

  29. “For the record, I’m not back tracking at all. And I’m pretty sure, that despite how good he’s been this month, Bautista will regress toward more normal numbers and one day decline with age as every player ever has.”

    @Parkes

    If you mean down from Barry Bonds’ 2001-2004 level, then sure. Nobody (except Bonds, I guess) can stay that locked in for a full season. But people have been talking regression for about six months now with Bautista. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

    And as I’ve said before, Bautista’s skills (good eye, great power) are skills that age well. I don’t believe there’s any reason to expect a huge regression due to age between 30-34 (ARod, a similar hitter to Bautista, was very good in those years of his career).

    Of course, if he’s on some kind of undetectable drug program, the age issue might not matter at all anyway, haha.

  30. I also checked out Delgado’s 2000 season last night, I think some forget how good he was. He was hitting like Bautista is right now for most of the summer that year.

    The Level of Excellence needs to happen this season.

  31. Can you imagine what it would cost the Jays to sign Bautista now. I said it at the time that the Jays really had two options, sign Bautista to a long term contract prior to the season, or lose him.

  32. “Thanks Ike. I appreciate this type of response. Disagreeing on the benefit/risk doesn’t require name calling and other nonsense.”

    HAHAHAHA! Do you think we forget where you came from, you fucking hypocrite? You are the most asinine, rude, disrespectful person on the Internet! Or should I say “were”? Have you changed? Are you now a polite, soft-spoken nice-guy? Or are you a faker for your new bosses?

  33. look…as in all sports at some point you are paying future money for past performance. Bautista will be worth above AAV first 2 years, equal to in the third, and last two will be under. However over the length of the contract he will be worth around what the contract was and even if it was a little under…big deal. it not like they lost their shirt or anything.

    One thing is for sure Bautista is certainly becoming popular in Toronto and he sure fun to watch.

  34. I’m loving watching Bautista play right now, but I still wish they signed him to a three year deal with a fourth year option. Clearly, however, something like that wasn’t an available possibility. On the plus side, can you imagine what the price of that extension would be right now or (gulp) what he would get on the open market if he were to maintain his current level of play for the next 140 games?

  35. Jeff:

    As I’m sure Parkes can’t/won’t say it, chill the fuck out. We get it – he said Bautista wouldn’t be this good, but he is (in the beginning of a rather long contract). That doesn’t mean that Parkes, or anyone else, can’t appreciate what Bautista is doing, or that he can’t revise his original opinion now are at some other point. So chill the fuck out.

  36. An interesting point Jeff makes is about what age a ball player is expected to decline. I’m talking a bit out of my ass here but I thought 27 was considered the start of prime, whereas now you seem to see younger and younger players excelling. And on the other side my impression is that many so so talents have fallen off a cliff after 34 or 35. But is there a sliding scale from “decline commences” to “fallen off the cliff”? I assumed Bautista might be really good for 2 to 4 years and maybe declining production throughout, making the 5th year problematic. Maybe it needn’t be fall off the cliff problematic?

  37. And, I think Fullmer Fan is spot-on with his quick discussion of the risks of having signed Bautista long-term.

    And while I think these things are often overplayed (like the Nats throwing money at Werth to “prove” that they’re a free agent destination), let’s not forget AA’s comments about wanting to demonstrate to other players in the Jays org. that if you play well and stick with the team then you’re going to get paid.

  38. The difference is that if Bautista actually declines from his elite level like ARod from 32-34 (ARod had a monster year in his age 31/32 year), he’ll still be well worth his contract.

  39. “Still contributing, but still declining too. ARod has lost at least a win above replacement in each of the last three seasons (aged 32, 33 and 34).”

    Yes, technically this is true if you compare these seasons to his 2007 year (54 HR, 1.067 OPS). But his 2008 and 2009 seasons are arguably better than his 2004 and 2006 seasons. He regressed back to his mean which is about a .950 OPS. Last year he was coming off hip surgery so it’s not that unexpected that he didn’t have a great year. Let’s see how this year plays out before we say Arod has significantly regressed.

    I’m of the opinion that regression due to aging in your early 30′s isn’t a big deal. If you have data that it is, I would like to see it. I’m going to search on that now.

  40. Parkes:
    Did the Yankees signing Pavano hurt their ability to get expensive players?
    The Giants won the World Series last year with a useless Barry Zito.

    I could understand your point if the Jays were the Rays, but because Toronto is a large market and Rogers is the richest owner in MLB, I don’t think we should all be getting our titties in a twist over $13 million a year. Moreover, with the predicted influx of young, cheap talent in the coming years I would expect there to be substantial payroll flexibility.
    Finally, if we’re all going to bitch about contracts… can we please talk about Juan Rivera? I’m fully aware that he looks great compared to Vernon Wells, but still… $5 million for that doughboy?!

  41. @Spiggy

    Yes, some need to stop thinking of this organization in small market terms like it’s the Tampa Bay Rays. Rogers is going to need to spend money at some point to turn the Jays into a consistent winner, and it might as well start with a player that could turn out to be a tremendous bargain.

  42. Fullmer Fan:

    That’s the point, Bautista would have to fall off a cliff to not be worth 5/65. It’s not like it was 5/100, like it would cost now.

    Maybe I shouldn’t take it so personally when someone criticizes my favourite player, or my team, but Parkes did his best to crush the hopes of those that liked the signing at the time.

    Thankfully it didn’t work out for him. Bautista is going to hit 40+.

  43. Great post Parkes.
    For all the haters why is it not possible to think that the contract was a bad move and still love what’s happening right now (which does bode well for the future)?

    Second, the Jay’s had Bautista under control this season so we can’t really even begin to judge the contract until 2012. The risk of not signing this winter was that he has this huge season in 2011 and you end having to pay more to keep him than if you signed him this winter. The risk of signing him this winter is that you end up overpaying in 2012-2015. So AA chose the risk of overpaying him 2012-2015 so we should wait until 2012 at least then to evaluate this.

    Also, Parkes is a fan of the Jays much like most others posting here. I’m willing to bet he’d rather be wrong and have Bautista ring up 7 WAR a year for the next 6 years than be right and have the Jays waste $65 million.

  44. Man, the troll content is high today. Nice work though Parkes. I tried to write something similar today but didn’t go nearly this deep. Well done.

  45. I know how Parkes loves Keith Law.
    Well on Baseball Today Law was agreeing with Parkes about what a bad deal the Bautista contract is. However, Law did mention that if by September, Bautista had repeated his numbers from last year he would have huge trade value and that is the best part about his contract. In that case, I think if the right deal comes along AA has to sell high and the five year contract signed by Bautista becomes a revolutionary piece of outside-the-box thinking. That, said, it would never happen.

  46. Hey Travis. It’s called ‘debate’. Who do you think you are? Stephen Harper?
    Parkes remains steadfast the Baustista contract was not smart while others disagree. Sure there are some people just telling Parkes to fuck himself, but it seems most people are trying to incorporate some kind of fact into their argument.
    The Bautista contract talk is so fun because his career trajectory is so completely batshit and we’re all hardcore fans.

  47. @Trevor Reitsma

    After what Parkes wrote about the signing, I’m not surprised that people are asking him to eat some crow.

  48. Sorry, Travis Reitsma, not Trevor.

  49. MarkV has got it. The fact that Bautista has continued to be absolutely outstanding does not change the fact that it was a risky contract to sign, given the information available at the time. No one worth listening to was arguing absolutely one way or the other that he’d either continue to be great or he’d fall off a cliff, the issue was the amount of acceptable risk.

  50. MarkV, I think the only way that the $65M can be truly wasted is if Rogers doesn’t build on this spending next offseason. This team can contend in 2012 with its great pitching, but they also need another good hitter or two (especially if Hill and Lind continue this shit).

    If I’m the Jays, I’m dreaming big. Go for Pujols first. And if that fails, as it most likely will, throw your money at Fielder.

  51. Oh ya, Stoeten, Parkes’ little innocent reaction only argued that the contract was “risky”. Give me a break. The guy freaked, posted a dozen arguments as to why it was an “insane” contract etc. He was wrong. Bautista is a monster, and fans like me LOVE him

    I, and I’m sure I can speak for at least a few others here, can’t wait until Parkes is forced to eat his words.

    And that time is rapidly approaching…

  52. Jeff:
    Jesus man… it’s too early to judge the success of the contract. it was a risky move and we’ll see whether it was a good one in time.
    what is with this crusade you’ve got going against parkes? why don’t you chill out and go wank off to some Bautista home runs?

  53. Umm..isn’t this season, in terms of JBau’s contract, a wash? If he didn’t sign i think arbitration was still an option so he’d still be on the team…true value of the contract will be seen 2-3 years from now.

  54. only in toronto would people whine about having the best hitter in baseball locked up for 5 years.

  55. One quick thought about how the risk involved in the contract. Of course there is significant risk but if you believe what AA has been saying about their philosophy going forward this deal fits in. Looking at the Wallace deal for Gose the major thing that kept coming up was that yes it was a gamble, but if it works out then the jays have an elite player in a position where there are not very many compared to a really good chance of having a decent player in a position where it’s pretty easy to find one. With all that in mind looking at the Joey Bats deal through the same perspective makes perfect sense. If he goes off (which hopefully continues) then they jays are huge winners, if he doesn’t well the AL East isn’t a place for “better safe than sorry”.

  56. Stoeten writes: “The fact that Bautista has continued to be absolutely outstanding does not change the fact that it was a risky contract to sign, given the information available at the time.” This is where I have problems with you guys. You take it as a given that the information available to you is the ONLY information available. It isn’t. You look at the numbers, fine. You may be pretty sophisticated with respect to the numbers, and that’s fine too. And the numbers may indicate to you (but do not make it a fact, just inform your opinion) that the contract was risky. But the Jays have considerably MORE information than you do, or I do, or any fan does. They have experienced scouts and coaches who watch the player in games and see more than we see, and more than the mere numbers. They know the player, they know his mindset, how and why and how effectively he’s made adjustments, and what kind of adjustments. They know (at least to a degree that surpasses us) the player’s character, his drive, his level of self-confidence, his over-all athleticism and susceptibility to injury. These may be small things, but they make up a part of the player’s “true talent.” And they’re things not available to us in making a determination as to whether a contract is risky, or how risky it is.

    Human beings play baseball, and they are not utterly reducible to numbers. I think the Jays were confident that Bautista would have a very good season this year, and that without a contract prior to season, they’d be unlikely to retain him at anything remotely resembling 5/65.

  57. Relevant article today:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/9710/be-very-afraid-of-jose-bautista

    Bautista rakes like some kind of magical beast.

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