In the early part of the 2011 season, Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays was dominant. While he couldn’t sustain this level of play as Barry Bonds did consistently throughout the early part of the 21st Century, Bautista’s .532 OBP, .780 SLG, 1.312 OPS, .415 ISO, .549 wOB and 255 wRC+ was as remarkable of a performance through 30 days as anyone had seen since.
More than merely in the numbers, there seemed to exist a palpable fear among opposing pitchers that hearkened back to Bonds and manifested itself in visible caution when dealing with Bautista. I’ve seen similar approaches a couple of times since, recently with Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, while pitchers seemed hesitant to challenge McCutchen, it wasn’t at the same nervous fear-driven level that it seemed to be for Bautista.
This is an admittedly subjective realm. We can compare numbers, and over a 30 day period, you’re likely to find better production from players other than the ones I’m writing about. However, these are the ones I was lucky enough to see performing at their best over this arbitrary number of days.
More recently, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants has been receiving the type of fear-driven pitches that Bautista saw in 2011. And such an approach from opposing pitchers makes sense. Over the last 30 days, Posey has been the best batter in baseball, putting up a .531 OBP, .787 SLG, 1.318 OPS, .330 ISO, .537 wOBA and a 248 wRC+. To put these numbers into context beyond a comparison to Bautista in 2011, the second best batter in baseball, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels has received a lot of attention over the past four weeks. Here are his numbers over that time period: .411 OBP, .658 SLG, 1.069 OPS, .324 ISO, .457 wOBA and 194 wRC+.
But perhaps what I’m writing about can best be expressed by Posey’s game yesterday against the Colorado Rockies, in which the catcher received 35 pitches over five plate appearances, walking three times, hitting one single and a sacrifice fly ball in a particularly epic ten pitch at bat.
Twice, pitching changes were made ahead of his coming to the plate. In fact, over his five plate appearances he faced four different pitchers, none of whom showed a willingness to challenge Posey with pitches in the zone until Rafael Betancourt came into the game in the eighth inning to put some band-aids on the bullet holes from which his team was suffering.
On the whole, Posey has seen far fewer pitches in the zone in recent weeks, but more noticeably with breaking pitches than with fastballs. Perhaps the most impressive thing through Posey’s current run is that he actually has more walks than strike outs while still putting up incredibly high power numbers. This to me suggests, that not only is Posey’s patience remarkable, but the way in which he’s seeing the ball right now is unlike any other player in baseball, picking up on what type of pitches as well as their location in a quick and consistent manner. He’s able to pick and choose his pitches unlike any batter we’ve seen in a long time.
Of course, baseball is a streaky game, and while the Giants catcher won’t be able to sustain his current run ad infinitum, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch right now, especially for fans in San Francisco cheering on their team as they battle the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.
And The Rest
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis is going to take full advantage of his playing time. [MLB.com]
Writing about writing about baseball. [Double Switching]
Behind the scenes of the Houston Astros draft. [Crawfish Boxes]
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus shows off his salad. [inimitable apertures]
The Washington Nationals are willing to shut Stephen Strasburg down through the playoffs. [MLBlogs]
Cliff Corcoran’s Five Cuts compares what the Washington Nationals have done with Stephen Strasburg to what the Chicago White Sox have done with Chris Sale. [Sports Illustrated]
Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski scores a run on the Oakland A’s defensive indifference. [MLB.com]
Desmond Jennings is at his best when he keeps it simple: swing at strikes, pass on balls. [Process Report]
The 2013 Draft Derby. [Twitter]