Jose Bautista came out of nowhere two-and-a-half seasons ago and hit 54 home runs at the age of 29. At a time when most players’ careers are declining, Bautista’s taking off. In fact, his breakout has been completely unprecedented for someone his age.
Since the start of the 2010 season, Bautista has accumulated more than 18 WAR. In the history of baseball, only 38 hitters* have reached that kind of production during their age-29 to age-31 seasons. The most amazing part of Bautista’s statistical climb is how it was totally unpredicted.
In his three previous seasons before Bautista reached his 54-home-run year, he accumulated just a bit more than 3 WAR. To put that into perspective, of the 38 players who had 18 or more WAR from age 29 to age 31, here are the lowest WAR totals for players from their age-26 to age-28 seasons:
The next-lowest player, Ryne Sandberg, had a WAR total almost three-times that of Bautista’s. The 38 batters averaged just less than 19 WAR for those three seasons.
Besides the WAR totals, Bautista’s home run totals also are unprecedented. In his age-29 to age-31 seasons, he’s hit 124 home runs. Only eight other players have ever reach that home run total during the same age range. They are:
|Name||HRs (Ages 29-31)||HRs (Ages 26-28)|
Ted Kluszewski was the closest to having a breakout similar to Bautista’s, but he was still averaging more than 20 home runs per season before his breakout. Bautista, on the other hand, was closer to 14 home runs per season. This group of players is rather small, so I decided to expand the list out to include all the players who hit 110 home runs from ages 29 to 31** (29 players). Here are the 10 sluggers with the lowest home run totals from their age-26 to age-28 seasons:
It’s pretty obvious that Bautista’s breakout is unique. He was close to being a replacement-level player in the three years before became the game’s best home-run hitter. And it has been a great breakout. In fact, it’s so extraordinary that any other offensive surge that a hitter experiences shouldn’t be compared to Bautista’s.
*Joe Morgan, Willie Mays, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Jason Giambi, Jeff Bagwell, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew, Eddie Mathews, Chase Utley, Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, Willie McCovey, Mickey Mantle,Roberto Clemente, Gary Carter, Carlos Beltran, Carl Yastrzemski, Roy Campanella, Craig Biggio, Ken Boyer, Brian Giles, Harmon Killebrew, Todd Helton, Richie Ashburn, Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, Pete Rose, John Olerud, Nellie Fox
**Alex Rodriguez, Albert Belle, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, David Ortiz, Ted Kluszewski, Jose Bautista, Babe Ruth, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Dale Murphy, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mark Teixeira, Willie McCovey, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Robinson, Jason Giambi, Vinny Castilla, Brian Giles, Roy Sievers, Carlos Pena
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