Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jose Bautista – Legend?

That was a lead story in The Star the other day. I think it is a little too early in the year and in Bautista’s career to be making such a claim. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have Bautista right in there with the all-time greats.

Jose Bautista is in the second year of his slugging career. How does he compare to other sluggers over the years? His current OPS is a whopping 1.314 and he is on pace for 60 HRs. He is seeing the ball as well as anyone. He is picking his pitches and squaring off on the ball and making quality at bats. So will this last? Can the team support him? Will he be shut down by opposing managers and pitchers because of a lack of production from the team?

The year, so far, has been spectacular in every regard but one. Bautista leads the league in all batting categories but one: RBI. How has this happened? Too many singleton homers. Nobody is on base before him. Also, the lineup without Adam Lind or some batter with a high average is not always in place behind him. It is now the year after the 54 HRs and Bautista is finding that opposing managers are starting to pitch around him. He has 5 intentional base on balls (IBB) now. If the Jays cannot get the line up stronger, Bautista will receive even more walks. I am surprised he hasn’t been walked more already.

Barry Bonds got intentionally walked more than anyone else in 2004. Why? Because he had hit more HRs than anybody else. Since the 73 in 2001, his IBB had gone up. Bonds went the next 3 years with 46,45 and 45 HRs and had 61, 68 and 120 IBB. He would end up with a league-leading 754 for his career. It was a managing strategy that caused the walks. He was just too strong a hitter and the Giants did not have enough bats in the line up to protect him. They only had Marquis Grissom to take any heat off that blistering bat in 2004. In 2001, Jeff Kent and Rick Aurilia helped take the heat off Bonds by producing 22 and 37 HRs on their own.

What of other home run record players? When Mark McGwire broke the HR record with 70 in 1998 he had Ron Gant, Brian Jordon and Ray Lankford to keep him in the batter’s box. In 1999, he hit 65 and there was only Fernando Tatis as the only other offense. He had 21 IBB.

Roger Maris hit 61 in ’61. He had some help in the Yankee lineup to keep him from the IBB, in the names of Mickey Mantle (54), Elston Howard, Bill Skowron and Tom Tresh. A pretty heady lineup. In 1962 Maris led the team again with 33 HRs with the same cast of hitters to help keep him batting. The Yankees won the WS in 1961 and 1962.

The Babe, in 1927, hit the famous 60 long balls. For twelve years he led the majors in HRs. He had such notables as Earle Combs, Bob Meusel and one Lou Gerhig in the lineup assuring he got the chance to hit. Gehrig hit 47 HRs but beat Ruth in the RBI department with 175 to 164. Their OPS was also high with Ruth leading the way with 1.258 to 1.240 for Gehrig. Ruth’s strike out to ball ratio in those years was 1.57:1.

So, there is some of the history of the past leaders in Home Runs. Bautista is in great company. To continue with his success (and the Jays) he needs better bats around him. With Lind out, there seems to be no one that can step up to protect the Bautista. Lind had a .313 BA and 7 HRs and is still second on the team with 27 RBI even though on the DL. As a team, the Jays have (including Bautista’s work) a BA of .254. They have a ratio of nearly 1:2 base in balls to strike outs, which is truly awful. Bautista has 36% of the teams home runs. It seems that he is in basketball and is the franchise player. Everything revolving around one player. This idea does not work so well for baseball. All the great hitters in the past have had great hitters around them. All the positions need to function to produce a winning team. The Jays need more production or different pieces to support the efforts of Bautista. If that does not happen, he will not be as successful as he could be. He might not become the legend we would all wish for.

1 comment:

Larry Toman said...

You're right John. At the present time, there is a problem without a "legit" hitter to help Bautista. They will have to play based on stats with regard to opposing pitchers.It's almost like the bullpen by committee. Bautista's hand/eye co-ordination is crazy. The true record to chase is that of Maris in 61'. All those other numbers from Bonds and the other's are totally bogus, and don't mean anything. Prurist's agree it was done in 1961.

Check out Chris' article on him at SLN, which was also picked up by TSN. Cheers.