Can Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion Combine for 100 Home Runs?
The pair enter the All-Star break with a combined 50 home runs and currently rank first (Bautista 27 HR) and fifth (Encarnacion 23 HR) respectively in all of baseball.
Sitting atop the home run leaderboard is beginning to become a habit for Bautista, as he’s led the majors in home runs in each of the past two years (54 in 2010 and 43 in 2011).
This season is no different as he is on pace to finish with 50.
He got off to a slow start as he was held to just three home runs in April, but has been on a tear since May, as he homered nine times and smacked 14 more in June (a club record), topping the 12 hit by Carlos Delgado (August 1999), Jose Cruz (August 2001), and himself (May and August 2010).
His ’12 stats are almost a mirror image of what he entered the ’10 All-Star break with.
2010: G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
88 304 52 72 17 2 24 56 54 68 3 2 .237 .361 .543 .903
2012: 86 315 59 77 12 0 27 65 55 59 4 2 .244 .360 .540 .899
He went on to hit 30 home runs after the '10 All-Star break.
Could he be in store for an even better second half in '12?
Although he had a strong second half last season (.291 AVG, 11 HR, 36 RBI), most MLB pundits did not expect a huge breakout year from him.
Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy believes Encarnacion’s results can be attributed to his improved timing at the plate.
"When he got here he was late, hitting everything (opposite) field," he said via thestar.com. "For the last two years, he has been working on getting ready early, getting his foot down early, and I tell you, he’s got it. He knows how to get ready on time and he knows how to put the barrel on the ball."
Traditionally a second-half hitter, he got off to a terrific start (eight homers in April and nine in May), and hasn’t looked back.
Can the Blue Jays’ version of the bash brothers hit another 50 home runs in the second half?
They have a legitimate shot at doing so despite being on pace to fall short.
The good news is that they will play 39 of their remaining 76 games at the Rogers Centre, which according to ESPN Home Run Tracker ranks second in the American League with an average of 2.83 home runs per game.
However, as games become more playoff-like down the stretch and with a smaller margin for error, teams may decide to pitch around them in key situations and force others to beat them.
They will also need to exceed their current pace, which a hot streak could more than make up for.
On the flip side, one or both could also struggle at any point during the second half, which would thwart any chance of combining for 100 home runs.
Bautista and Encarnacion will come close, but will ultimately fall short.
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