Jose Bautista's Early Struggles Shouldn't Surprise Anyone
Seven home runs, 22 RBI, .310 BA, .360 OBP, .644 SLG
These are all numbers you would expect from Jose Bautista after 22 games, except that’s the line for Edwin Encarnacion. The Toronto Blue Jays DH is carrying the Jays on his back while the rest of the team sorts out their struggles.
Last year Bautista batted over .360 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in the month of April. His slugging percentage nearly topped .800. Oh how things have changed.
The heart and soul of this Blue Jays offense is mired in a slump, the likes of which fans in Toronto haven’t seen before out of their superstar: three home runs, 10 RBI, .190 BA, .333 OPS and .329 SLG.
The numbers you see are very uncharacteristic for the two-time defending home run champion. While unusual, it shouldn’t be any surprise.
This year’s crop of pitchers are definitely pitching Bautista differently than last year. Their game plan has changed, and his patience and timing are being put to the test right before our eyes.
Bautista is seeing more fastballs and variations—two-seamers and sinkers are up by nearly five percent. And this is evident by watching any of his at-bats. Opposing pitchers are staying away at an alarming rate, and it’s rare when you see them challenging him with fastball inside. It’s clear as day when you view his hit chart at the Rogers Centre: more outs to right than any other part of the field.
Bautista’s O-swing percentage (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) is at an all-time high (27.1 percent) and his O-contact percentage (percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone) sits at 75.4 percent, also a career high. Thanks again FanGraphs!
As the face of the franchise and now in year two of a monster contract, a slow start is not the most confidence inspiring way to begin the season for Bautista. Unfortunately, this slow start is a continuation of what began in the second half of last season.
After a stellar first half in 2011, Bautista led the American League in nearly every offensive category. The second half was a whole other story.
After a significant drop in home runs (19) and RBI (27), Bautista seemed human. Coupled with a drop in batting average of nearly 80 points, OBP of .049, and SLG of .225, his MVP candidacy took a major hit.
A few bad months shouldn't slow down someone who worked tirelessly for six years to become a starter. Adjustments will be made and it’s just a matter of time before he rights the ship. And we all know that after a couple base hits and a string of home runs, all this worry and analysis will become an afterthought.
Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.
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