Is Jose Bautista The New Ben Zobrist?

This afternoon, I mentioned Jose Bautista‘s power surge over the last week, where he hit four home runs and upped his season total to 10, tying him for the 5th most in the major leagues. While it’s easy to point to Bautista’s career numbers (and the leaderboards, where he’s joined by Kelly Johnson and Alex Gonzalez, among others) and write this off as a small sample fluke, Dan pointed out in the comments section that Bautista started this power surge last September, when he launched 10 home runs in 125 plate appearances.

How striking is the difference? If you run Bautista’s career numbers from 2004 through August of last year, he had hit 49 home runs in 1,913 plate appearances, or one every 39 trips to the plate. Since September of 2009, he has hit 20 home runs in 292 plate appearances, a rate of one every 14 trips to the plate.

That’s the kind of drastic change in results that warrants a closer look.

For his part, Bautista claims to have overhauled his swing with Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy:

“I was getting ready so late,” Bautista said. “Now, I feel like I can attack the ball in any count, and I’m on the offensive at all times and I’m not going up there to the plate trying to fight for my life.”

Overall, his batted ball profile didn’t change much last September – the main difference was that 25.6 percent of his fly balls went over the wall, a drastic increase from the 10 percent mark he’d run earlier in his career. He hasn’t been able to sustain all of that power this year, though his 18.9 percent HR/FB rate is still nearly double his previous career totals.

While it’s tempting to stick the “New Ben Zobrist” label on Bautista, we’re still dealing with under 300 plate appearances and a HR/FB rate that would put him in the same category as monstrous sluggers like Prince Fiedler, Adam Dunn, and Carlos Pena. Listed at 6’0/195, Bautista doesn’t look like those kind of mashers, and we shouldn’t expect him to continue pounding the baseball like he has been.

However, we can’t overlook the fact that he’s put up 28 percent of his career home runs in the most recent 13 percent of his career plate appearances. While ZIPS had Bautista posting a .161 ISO heading into the season, the updated ZIPS projection for the rest of 2010 has him at a .192 ISO, accounting for the fact that Bautista is showing a new found power stroke that hadn’t been part of his arsenal prior to last September.

The sample size isn’t large enough to claim that Bautista is for real, but it is too large to simply ignore the performance and assume he’ll go back to being the player he was prior to last fall. He is one player worth keeping a close eye for the rest of the 2010 season.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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SF 55 for life
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SF 55 for life
6 years 3 months ago

will he hit for average though?

Tom Au
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Tom Au
6 years 2 months ago

“Average” is only a means to an end. With the combination of slugging and walks (obp and ops), Bautista leads his team in both runs and RBIs.

Think of his walks as “singles” and you’ll get a high “average” (OBP, actually)

Matt B
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Matt B
6 years 3 months ago

Incidentally, the old Ben Zobrist still has zero HR in 2010. So “new Ben Zobrist” and “fluke” aren’t *necessarily* mutually exclusive.

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 3 months ago

can Ben Zobrist go back to being the “old” ben zobrist? that would be great :(

ryan
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ryan
6 years 3 months ago

sad thing is there in noroom for bautista on that team when edwin comes back, bautista will become a platoon player on tuesday with flewis in left field or EE at third

Bill
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Bill
6 years 3 months ago

Except Travis Snider went on the DL so there’s plenty of room. And Cito Gaston doesn’t believe in platoons. And guys who lead their teams in HR and RBI rarely get benched.

Jesse
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Jesse
6 years 3 months ago

when Snider returns, E5 will ride pine unless Bautista or Lewis regress. no reason to force an average bat into the hottest lineup in the bigs.

Omar Little
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Omar Little
6 years 3 months ago

Love to see him do well and raise his value. If guys like him and Gonzo can keep at it the Jays might be able to get a pretty good return come the trade deadline.

David MVP Eckstein
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6 years 3 months ago

550 PA from last september, you can start to draw conclusions

for now, God Bless the man who hit me 4 hrs last week on a FA pickup

Marc Hulet
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Marc Hulet
6 years 3 months ago

Bautista has also apparently adjusted the way he approaches an at-bat, with suggestions from Cito. Prior to ’10, he was a 100% guess hitter, where as now he says he goes up to the plate looking for specific pitches.

Aaron
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Aaron
6 years 3 months ago

Wasnt Bautista a big time prospect for a while?

Brian
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Brian
6 years 3 months ago

Big time prospect is probably a stretch. He was a decent prospect for the Pirates. No one knew what position he would play though.

His name has been around forever because they lost him in the rule 5 draft in 04 (i believe) and he was passed around to 3 or 4 teams before eventually landing back with the Pirates.

Omar Little
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Omar Little
6 years 3 months ago

…and you can add another bomb.

JayCee
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JayCee
6 years 3 months ago

Another bomb!

JayCee
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JayCee
6 years 3 months ago

From March 30th:

http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/stock-watch-330/

(my cameo on Bautista)

Franco
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Franco
6 years 3 months ago

If our traditional sluggers were hitting an insane amount of homers, I’d be suspicious of all these mediocre power guys who have been hitting moonshots this year. Small sample size blah blah i guess.

banosd
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banosd
6 years 3 months ago

He hit another one against Slowey of the Twins tonight and he crushed it. Definitely looks like a an up and coming slugger.

exxrox
Member
exxrox
6 years 3 months ago

Bautista’s surge correlates pretty well with him becoming a full-time player. When the Blue Jays acquired him, common thought just looked at his splits and he began getting at bats vs left-handed pitching..but he then got a more concrete role and has flourished in it.

AMusingFool
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

My first question in whether or not this is legit: How many of those homers are of the “just barely” variety? The second: which parks?

If the answers are “very few” and “all over”, then the odds of it being sustainable go up quite a bit.

If it’s “a lot” and “mostly Texas and NY (or wherever the best parks for homers over that time are)”, then I’d think probably not.

Gilbert
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Gilbert
6 years 3 months ago

If Murphy the coach is anything like Murphy the player he probably teaches pitch recognition and trying to put a big swing on what you can hit. He wasn’t a big guy but had some pop; his weakness was that he didn’t have the bat skills to put in play the tougher pitches and generally had a low BA for an OF. If he has any responsibility to coach OF I would like to see if they play shallow with one foot in front rather than squared off to turn back on the ball better.

B
Guest
B
6 years 3 months ago

So…..our conclusion is “he’s doing something different, but we don’t know if he’s now good or not, just that something’s different”……great, thanks for telling us something we didn’t know!

Ha, just kidding with the snark, I understand the limits of statistics and sample size and the conclusions they give us (or in this case, don’t give us), I just think there’s a lot more analysis that could be done to look for clues. As another poster mentioned, how “real” are these HR’s? Are they monster shots he wasn’t hitting before, or has he gotten a few “barely” HR’s that are skewing his numbers? Do we have more information like Hit F/X stuff to indicate whether he’s hitting the ball well or doing what he used to do and just seeing better results? I would guess (though I do not know) that those numbers would normalize in smaller samples than overall performance, kind of like K% and BB% (inputs) don’t need as large a sample size as the final output (HR’s or wOBA or whatever else) for the same amount of confidence. Are his spray charts in general different? Can we chalk up some of this improvement as a “regular PT” type thing (as in, is there an expected improvement in performance from regular PT, pretty sure I’ve seen there is)? With all the data out there….I just think there’s a lot more analysis that can be done to look for clues NOW instead of just “keeping a close eye for the rest of the 2010 season” to see if his performance is for real or not….

Spring Has Sprung
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Spring Has Sprung
6 years 3 months ago

Bautista was John Dewan’s No. 1 player “poised for a breakout based on their Spring Training statistics.”

http://actasports.com/sow.php?id=243

But I know Spring Training stats don’t matter.

wily mo
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wily mo
6 years 3 months ago

isn’t he more like the new mark reynolds than the new ben zobrist? not-physically-massive guys who somehow hit for massive power, bad average… seriously, put their 2010 lines next to each other. same guy.

(that’s all assuming the bautista breakout is sustainable, obviously. i’m just talking shape of the numbers.)

jkljk
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jkljk
5 years 5 months ago

lol

Blueyays
Member
Member
Blueyays
1 year 8 months ago

Well

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