Jose Bautista and The Little Things in Life

The Jedi lies in wait. - Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Bautista's value as a slugger is undisputed but he quietly adds value elsewhere.

On the surface there may not appear to be a great deal of subtlety to Jose Bautista's game. Bautista is a slugger's slugger. The Blue Jays right fielder often sells out for home runs with a swing that can be described as a violent action, and despite missing serious time over the last two years he is 2nd in the MLB in home runs since his breakout in 2010 (Miguel Cabrera has four more home runs than him in 420 more PA). Bautista will always be primarily known as prolific distributor of baseballs into bleachers, but there are quite a few facets to his game. His most obvious secondary skill is his patience. Bautista has posted excelllent walk rates and OBP's since 2010, otherwise known as when he became Jose Bautista. This is also a well documented and a well understood aspect of what makes Jose Bautista valuable. However, today I thought I'd take a walk off the beaten path and talk about the things that Jose does without a bat that help the Blue Jays win ball games.

There are two primary ways a position player can provided value outside of his hitting: defense and base running. Starting with defense, Bautista is a player who has unremarkable range but a remarkable arm. Jose has recorded 44 outfield assists since becoming an everyday player in 2010, a mark which is second only to Jeff Francoeur among MLB right fielders. Outfield assists are a good statistic for pinpointing the best plays an outfielder makes with his arm, but they paint an incomplete picture.The other thing that outfielders with good arms can do is prevent runners from advancing, either with a strong relay throw or simply the deterrent of their reputation. The idea of holding runners is rarely discussed in baseball circles, but fielders who do well at this can add real run prevention value. Those who allow runners to take extra bases cost their teams runs. Luckily there have been efforts made to quantify this effect. Baseball-Reference tracks five distinct scenarios wherein a runner can take an extra base. Along with a description I will provide the short form I will be using to describe each circumstance in the charts to come as they aren't very table friendly. Here are the five scenarios :

1. A runner on first base attempts to reach third on a single

This is a pretty common scenario, especially for right fielders, given the distance between right field and third base. This scenario will be represented by: "First-Third (S)"

2. A runner on second base attempts to score on a single

This scenario is the reason for the term "scoring position". Barring an infield single or a glacial runner teams expect to score here more often than not. This scenario will be represented by: "Second-Home (S)"

3. A runner on first base attempts to score on a double

Pretty self explanatory. This scenario will be represented by: "First-Home (D)"

4. A runner on third base attempts to score on a fly ball with fewer than two outs

The classic sacrifice fly. This scenario will be represented by: "Sac Fly"

5. A runner on second base attempts to reach third on a fly ball with fewer than two outs

The less glamorous kind of sac fly, the one that counts against batting average unlike the run scoring variety. Batting average is strange when you think about it... Anyhow, this scenario will be represented by "Second-Third (F)"

Now that we've got all those scenarios under our belts, it's time to see how Jose Bautista does when it comes to holding runners. When calculating the numbers below I've removed assists from the equation in this case to make sure we are only dealing with Bautista's ability to hold runners in place rather than his ability to throw them out. I've used data from 2010-2013 because defensive statistics are fickle and the larger the sample size the better. While Baseball-Reference keeps track of percentage of runners held, I've decided to frame these numbers in terms of extra bases allowed, partly because it sounds cooler, but partly because it's easier to compare to the extra bases taken we'll be discussing later (oop Spoiler Alert):

2010-2013

First-Third (S) Second-Home (S) First-Home (D) Sac Fly Second-Third (F)

Total Extra Bases Allowed

Jose Bautista

48.5%

56%

38.5%

66.6%

39.3%

47.3%

League Average RF

47.5%

64.4%

38.1%

76.6%

46.6%

52.4%

Bautista actually grades out very slightly below average at preventing runners from going first to third on a single or first to home on a double, but otherwise his numbers here are excellent. It is particularly noteworthy how he shuts down Sac flies and runners trying to score from second on a single. It's possible that opposing 3rd base coaches are shying away from risking having their players gunned out at the plate by Bautista, which in turn may limit his assist opportunities. This is why assists don't tell the entire story. It's impossible to say whether the runners held by a good relay throw or his mere presence, but either way Jose Bautista encourages timidity in opposing base runners.

Speaking of timid base runners, Jose Bautista is not one. Not even close. There have been times where he has been criticized for being too aggressive on the base paths, but it is clear that he knows all too well that fortune favors the bold. Unfortunately, when it comes to base running the good folks at Baseball-Reference only keep track of three of the base running scenarios above [First-Third (S), Second-Home (S) & First-Home (D)], but those three more than tell the story. Here's how Baustista ranks compared to league averages when it comes to taking extra bases:

2010-2013

First-Third (S)

Second-Home (S)

First-Home (D)

Percentage of Extra Bases Taken

Jose Bautista

40%

66.6%

65%

51.8%

League Average

28.4%

59.1%

42%

40.2%

These numbers are even more compelling. Bautista is consistently grabbing more extra bases than average. His ability to get home from first on doubles really stands out. It's hard to know what to attribute that to other than good judgment and aggressiveness. We know that Jose is not your Adam Dunn type plodding slugger, but at the same time it's not as if he possess unbelievable speed either. If anything he is a great example for how mental base running is. I think Bautista would probably get blown away by Moises Sierra in a foot race but there isn't much doubt as to who the better base runner is.

Jose Bautista is a pretty hard guy not to notice. From his exaggerated swings, to his towering home runs, to his confrontations with the umpires, he is often in the spotlight around these parts. However, that doesn't mean there aren't aspects of his game that go unnoticed. For every dramatic outfield assist from Bautista there are many instances of him preventing runs with just the threat of his arm. Although he is best known for creating extra bases with his bat, it is clear that he also does so with his legs. In baseball commentators often talk about the "little things" that help teams win and I can't imagine much littler things than ones I've listed here.For someone who appears to have an all-or-nothing game at times, Bautista chips away at opponents by taking a base here and preventing one from being taken there. Over the last four years he has allowed 9.7% fewer base runners to advance than league average while taking the extra base 28.9% more than the average Jose. Those bases add up. Even in his age 33 season these skills don't seem to be eroding just yet. This year he allowed only 40.7% of extra bases to be taken from him and claimed 58% of the extra bases he could while on base. Single year sample sizes, especially for defensive stats, are too small to say anything definitive, but the evidence of decline has yet to appear. It will at some point in the near future, but for now remember that there is more to Jose Bautista than just his moonshots.There is also his recklessly effective base running and the nuclear deterrent attached to his right shoulder. As some patronizing older relative has surely told you in the past: appreciate the little things in life.

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