Jose Bautista Elevates In Hot Streak

Jose Bautista is back. After a horrendous April which saw him post just a .185/.298/.333 line, the Jays’ star has surged. He’s following up a .257/.342/.552 May with a a .258/.413/.774 June, including an absurd 10 home runs in 18 games.

Bautista’s resurgence has come with a return to what elevated him to the game’s premier power hitter back in 2010: get the ball in the air often and with authority.

Bautista’s power surge in 2010 was accomplished in large part by rarely hitting the ball on the ground. After having ground ball rates over 40% every season of his career, Bautista only hit 31.1% of his balls in play on the ground in 2010. 2011 saw a jump up to 36.9% but still far below his former career norms.

By getting the ball in the air so much often, Bautista has harnessed his raw power. Much as his batted ball rates help explain his performance on a seasonal level, a look at the progression of his rates so far this year helps explain his early struggles and recent successes. Observe:

Bautista’s June has seen more and more balls in the air, corresponding directly with his hottest stretch of the season so far. That’s nothing new for Bautista. Observe, the same batted ball graph over the past three seasons as well as a wOBA graph:

Compare the progression of the blue fly ball line with the wOBA line in the following chart. The correlation is obvious, and his current surge is reminiscent of his best power-hitting days of 2010.

With a lot of hitters, it’s natural to use stuff like line drive rates to see if they’re going well. With some, it’s tempting to see if they’re driving the ball to the opposite field.

Bautista’s approach doesn’t work this way. He’s not a “pure hitter.” He opens the hips and tries to crush the ball. For so many who don’t have the kind of raw power he owns, this approach wouldn’t work. But Bautista’s pull power is so good that it doesn’t matter that he eschews the opposite field. His home run spray charts almost exclusively cover left field; he doesn’t need to cover right field to produce.

It takes tremendous ability to make an approach like Bautista’s work. 119 home runs since 2010 have proven he has more than enough power. Now that he’s getting the ball in the air again, we’re seeing the same insane numbers we’ve marveled at the past two seasons.

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22 Responses to “Jose Bautista Elevates In Hot Streak”

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  1. Max says:

    .193 BABIP with a 138 wRC+… insane. I guess mashing tons of homers will do that for you.

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    • Mark says:

      Doesn’t hurt that he’s got a 14.9% BB rate to go along with all that power.

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    • Uh Oh Cordero says:

      Never been a high BABIP guy though. Just .233 in 2010 vs a 166 wRC+. In 2011 it’s .309 BABIP with a 181 wRC+.

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      • gherkin lamar says:

        xBABIP is .272, though. I believe that this qualifies as unconditionally insane.

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      • Mark says:

        He’s got 22 home runs out of his 58 hits. HRs are subtracted out of BABIP, right? No wonder it’s so low then. Almost half his hits aren’t included in the formula because they go for home runs.

        He has almost as many singles (28) as he does home runs (22). That’s crazy.

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      • Uh Oh Cordero says:

        That’s true. BABIP only counts balls in play. In 2010 and 2011, roughly a third of his hits leave the park.

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  2. Relevant Young Frankenstein Quote says:

    Elevate me.

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  3. Uh Oh Cordero says:

    119 HR since 2010. Only 5 to RF. All hit in the midwest (@MIN, @STL, @MIL)

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  4. Slats says:

    ZIPS still has Joey Bats hitting 45 HR’s and putting up 5.1 WAR in his ‘down’ year.

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  5. j6takish says:

    Don’t look now, but Joey Bats season wRC+, 138. E5′s wRC+ against same sided pitching, 135

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  6. TtD says:

    Toronto as a team seem to breed these dead pullhitters. Encarnacion has less pull but is about through with his transformation (everything is to left/left centre pretty much) and Rasmus seems to be in the early stages of becoming a lefty version.

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    • exxrox says:

      Disagree about EE. He has hit some very solid bombs to right-center, as well as into the RF bullpen and deep dead center; he is not shaping into a pull-only guy.

      Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells are your guys. The culprit is Dwayne “sell out on every swing” Murphy, hitting coach.

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      • Big Jgke says:

        That’s how Adam Lind was broken, too.

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      • TtD says:

        Spray chart would disagree. Two to left centre, one to right centre, one to right field, rest have all been between 100 and 125, or left field in simpler terms. He doesn’t pull any down the line but pretty much everything is into the LF bullpen.

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  7. exxrox says:

    With Jose, I think of Gary Sheffield, because they both are valid answers to “most frighteningly violent swing” trivia questions.

    Gary had his success with about 5-10% less fly balls though, and I can’t find spray charts on fangraphs.

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    • jevant says:

      Encarnacion has developed a pretty violent swing of his own.

      Joey Bats and Triple-E are turning into the new Bash Brothers.

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      • mrwalkerb says:

        how awful is it that my first thought to your bash brothers reference wasn’t “My team has made middle of the order power” but rather “don’t say that everyone will say they’re on PEDs”

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  8. Big Jgke says:

    Even though it hasn’t necessarily equaled victory, the Jays put on an absolute fireworks display versus Milwaukee. Watching the highlights of the bombs hit by Joey Bats, E5, and Brett Lawrie at Miller Park is a highly recommended experience.

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  9. Joey Pulls it says:

    So true ASAP Robbie, so True.

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  10. dannyrainge says:

    if he does this for, say, two more years, is he HOF status?

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    • CJ says:

      … I really doubt it, assuming you mean he falls off a cliff after two or three more years.

      He’s pretty clearly one of the best players in baseball, but not necessarily THE best, and I don’t think you can discount his early career. If you say he puts up a 35-ish win 5-year peak (a rough guess since 8 wins is about MVP level, I think), then ages normally… I don’t know.

      Probably borderline, depending on peak-vs-longevity arguments. He’d have no big counting stats (virtually no chance at 500, which is the de facto standard), for example, so you’d need “intangibles”: a handful of MVPs, preferably hitting a bunch of homers to lead Toronto to a World Series.

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