Hey everybody! Let’s play a game! I’m going to give you the stats of three players, you try to guess who they are. Sounds fun, right? OK, here we go:
Player 1: 32 games, .368/.520/.868, 16 home runs, 42 hits (18 singles)
Player 2: 34 games, .283/.419/.433, 5 home runs, 34 hits (26 singles)
Player 3: 22 games, .269/.400/.333, 1 home run, 21 hits (18 singles)
Don’t bother trying to guess. It’s a trap! They’re all Jose Bautista! His stats from this season, broken into three segments, with the third being a subset of the second.
The first set up stats covers the season up to May 15. The second goes from May 16 to today. The third starts on May 29 — with the “beginning” of the “slump.”
What’s happened to the monster from the first 32 games? I don’t know, but that doesn’t stop me from writing hundreds of words about it after the jump.
On Sunday, May 15, the Blue Jays were in Minnesota taking on the Twins. A win and the Jays would sweep the Twins, and win they did, 11-3. Jose Bautista led the offence that day, hitting an impressive three home runs. That was Bautista’s 32nd game of the season and the three homers pushed his season total to 16. Of his 42 hits, 24 went for extra bases (that’s including the dingers). His slash line after the game was .368/.520/.868.
Since that game, Bautista’s been a different player. In the 34 games since, he’s hit five home runs. He has 34 hits, only eight of which (including the dingers) have gone for extra bases. His slash line in those games stands at .283/.419/.433.
What happened after that game? Did Bautista’s bats only have so much power in them and, after 14 months of mashing he finally used it all up? Is he, as he’s claimed, starting his load too late? Have pitchers started to figure out how to neutralize his power? Is he just not seeing the ball as well anymore? Maybe the key to his success really does reside in his facial hair.
Maybe. Or maybe Bautista became a premature victim of the Sports Illustrated cover curse.
As most of you reading this probably already know, SI’s Joe Posnanski followed Bautista for a couple of weeks to put together a story on him. When did Posnanski start following Bautista around? I’m glad you asked. Peep the following tweet:
Yep, that’s right. Posnanski started working on his story on May 16 — the day JoBau’s power seems to have disappeared!
Coincidence? Probably. But what if…
Anybody who’s read Posnanski’s work knows that he’s a great writer. What if he gets his writing ability by sucking the power out of his subjects? What if he’s the sports journalism equivalent of the X-Men’s Rogue?
It sounds crazy, I know, but look at the facts:
• Posnanski made his name working for the Kansas City Star. In a recent blog post about moving from KC, he had said the following about the city’s sports scene upon his arrival and the subsequent years:
When I came to town, the Chiefs looked like one of the best teams in football, the Royals were not so far removed from their days as a model baseball franchise, the NCAA was still in town, Tom Watson was still viewed as young enough to win big tournaments. Things looked as promising as just about anyplace else. But there was to be little but sports misery and sports heartbreak.
• Posnanski started following Bautista and Bautista’s power suddenly disappeared.
All this sporting sadness around him and yet Posnanski still manages to become a great sports writer? And don’t make arguments at me about great literature coming out of bad surroundings. Did you really enjoy reading Charles Dickens that much? (OK, he was kind of good.)
But, lame jokes aside, Jose Bautista at bats no longer feel like must-see TV. In fact, they feel much more like watching pre-September 2009 Bautista at bats.
Check out his slash line from the last 22 games again: .269/.400/.333.
Now check out his slash line from the 2009 season, even including his great September: .235/.349/.408.
Basically the same player, except that he’s traded power for the ability to get on base more often.
What’s wrong with Bautista? I don’t know.
But I do believe that he’ll be able to figure it out. After all, he’s already gone from a guy who couldn’t even keep a job with the Pirates to one of the best hitters in baseball once. Turning it around again should be a lot easier than what he’s already accomplished.
I just hope he gets it turned around soon and that’s mainly for a selfish reason — Bautista, when he’s on his game, is incredibly fun to watch. I want more of that.