Jose Bautista’s Historic Pace

In discussing Thursday how Jose Bautista has been, without question, the best and most valuable player in the American League this year, the topic of where his first “half” ranks historically was raised. Bautista played 84 games through the break and tallied 6.6 wins above replacement. Last year, he finished with 6.9 WAR in an excellent breakout campaign. He essentially matched his production from a year ago in half of a season.

Nobody else is even close to him this season either — it would actually take the combined WAR totals of Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce, an MVP candidate and an All-Star, to match his singular productivity. But where does his 6.6 WAR total through the first half of the season rank?

According to our splits data and the yeoman work of David Appelman, Bautista’s 6.6 WAR is the second-highest total since the 1974 season. That was the first year in the sample given the full availability of detailed event information on a game-by-game basis. Babe Ruth produced insane totals in 1920 (14.1), 1921 (14.4), 1923 (15.4) and 1927 (13.2) but we don’t have the capability of determining his totals through the same period.

In any event, here are the top four WAR totals through July 10 in a given year from 1974-2011:

Joe Morgan, 1975: 7.17 WAR
From 1972-76, Morgan ranged from 9.2-11.4 WAR per season, with the high end of that range coming in his historic 1975 season. In that five-year span, nobody was even close to his level of production. Morgan produced a whopping 50.5 WAR in that stretch. Teammate Johnny Bench ranked second… at 36.7. The Reds keystone cornerman hit .327/.466/.508 in 1975, with a +14 fielding mark. He walked 21 percent of the time and whiffed in only eight percent of his trips to the dish. He actually hit better — albeit by a slim margin — the next season, but didn’t rate as highly on the fielding spectrum. As amazing as Bautista has been this year, Morgan was even better three decades ago.

Jose Bautista, 2011: 6.64 WAR
He’s, uh, really good. Hopefully the ankle injury he suffered Thursday night won’t keep him sidelined for too long. Otherwise, I’ll feel some responsibility for derailing his historic pace.

Barry Bonds, 2002: 6.63 WAR
From 2001-04, Bonds had a Morgan-esque stretch of his own. The Giants outfielder amassed 47.9 WAR over those four years. Alex Rodriguez had the second-highest total in the same span, at “just” 34 WAR. Bonds’ 2001-04 is the gold standard for performance in recent memory, so to keep with a current frame of reference, Bautista is on a Bondsian pace. Everyone remembers his 2001 season with 73 home runs, but he produced just as many WAR in the season mentioned above. Bonds hit an insane .370/.582/.799. His batting average was higher than the OBP of 107 of 151 qualifying players. His OBP was higher than all but 10 players’ slugging percentages. And his SLG on its own would rank about halfway down the list of OPS leaders that year. Just a remarkable season.

Frank Thomas, 1994: 6.62 WAR
His WAR totals suffered given poor fielding at the easiest position and several seasons as a designated hitter, but he was undisputably awesome in this strike-shortened campaign. He finished the season with 7.3 WAR as the strike obviously cut short his 8-10 WAR pace, but Thomas still won the MVP award. He hit .353/.487/.729, similar to Bautista’s current numbers when era adjustments are applied.

Only two other players produced more than 6.2 WAR through July 10 in the 38-year sample. Rickey Henderson had 6.28 of his 10.5 WAR in 1990, and Cal Ripken, Jr had 6.27 of his 11.1 WAR in 1991. All of the seasons mentioned here are among the best of all time. Bautista is en route to joining that club, with a first half for the ages. A strong second half will cement his 2011 as one of the best seasons in baseball history.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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brendan
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brendan

2 things about his ankle injury – first, dont expect him back anytime soon. watch a replay and tell me you didnt cringe. second, what a stupid injury. seriously, he goes out of his way to play 200% all the time. good for him and all, but when you’re gonna be out EASILY by over 5 feet, you dont need to barrel into third base with some insane slide. it was really stupid, he caught his spikes in the dirt, and now he’s probably going to miss enough time to lose the chance to put up a truly historic season.

Eric Seidman
Guest

Maybe I’m just overly optimistic, but reports have him day to day, and he did walk off the field on his own. I’d say he doesn’t play this weekend and is back Monday.

brendan
Guest
brendan

obviously i hope you’re right, but man that ankle roll looked baddddddddd. he also neeeded help once he hit the dugout, getting down the stairs.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker

day-to-day is code for, “keep buying tickets for home games.”

david
Guest
david

david wright was also day to day…3 months ago.

George
Guest
George

Or, on the other hand, your amatur diagnosis could turn out to be meaningless and he won’t miss much time at all.

brendan
Guest
brendan

ya hopefully, it’s not like i’m cheering for him to be out. anyway, it doesn’t change the fact that the injury should have been avoided. in a blowout you shouldn’t be doing that to yourself when you’re guaranteed to be out

Falcon
Guest
Falcon

So playing hard no matter what because you want to win and be the best is now stupid? It’s a problem to play “200%” (even though that’s not possible)? It was a freak occurrence that he caught a spike in the dirt, not some bone-headed play. He makes that slide a hundred times out of a hundred and nothing happens, it was a freak incident. He plays hard to win and if you’re going to fault him for not taking a play off, then you neglect the fact that he failed miserably in the majors for roughly 6 seasons, when he had to go balls out all the time just to justify his playing time. He’s not going to stop doing that just because he earns a big pay cheque now

brendan
Guest
brendan

ya it’s a freak accident that could have been avoided. the same way lots of players gracefull step out of the way during a double play (on the run to second) when they’re going to obviously be out. do you fault them for that? no, it’s just called not being stupid by pointlessly continuing to charge in and slide for no reason to risk hurting yourself. you want evidence that it’s possible? go watch the replay from his injury. he wants to play hard so he can help his team? good for him, he better hope he didn’t tear or break anything while trying to help his team maintain that 9-4 lead.

gaweenbob
Member
gaweenbob

I doubt that he was running/sliding that hard just trying to be safe; he was probably trying to break up the double play. Can’t fault him for that.

cs3
Member
cs3

or he could just DH as soon as the ankle back to like 75%.
no reason he cant swing a bat with a brace and just take it easy o the base paths.

but really this doesnt appear to be anything that requires more than 3-4 days to heal enough to play on. ive rolled my ankle countless times playing soccer, baseball, skim boarding etc and the only time it took more than a week in order to heal enough to play, i couldnt put any wait on it… turned out to be a slight fracture.
Bautista walked off the field without problem which is a great sign.

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