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The Season That Was: Jose Bautista

Last year, during the off-season, we took a look back at each player's season. Thought we'd do it again. 

Jose Bautista was picked up near the end of the 2008 season from the Pirates for former prospect catcher Robinzon Diaz. A trade we won. Bautista, we figured, was picked up to back up Scott Rolen, a player that spent a lot of time on the DL, so having someone that could fill in at third seemed like a good idea. 

In 2009, Jose didn't have a great season, until September, when he suddenly started pounding the ball. Generally, hot streaks at the end of seasons are, well, just that, hot streaks. In this case, it looks like it was fundamental change in how he swing the bat. 

The most optimistic of us, before the season, thought that Jose might hit 18 home runs, with a .255 average. He actually hit:

2010 - Jose Bautista 161 569 109 148 35 3 54 124 100 116 9 2 .260 .378 .617

Not too shabby. Fangraphs had hit at a WAR of 6.9, that would have a value of $27.8 million. Since he actually made $2.4 million, we did alright. 

Up until last year,  Bautista hit left handed pitcher much much better than right handers. This year was much different. He hit lefties at a .222/.333/.509, but clubbed righties, .269/.388/.642.

He hit far better at home, .282/.412/.737 than he did on the road, .241/.347/.515.Gotta like a guy that performs for the home crowd. 

Unlike 2009, when he didn't hit with RISP, this year he was great at it, hitting .246/.407/.611, much better than he did with the bases empty, .256/.371/.553.

By month Jose hit:

April: .213/.314/.427

May: .287/.422/.766

June: .179/.324/.369

July: .347/.418/.765

August: .299/.431/.742

September: .224/.346/.589

Jose's always has been a streak hitter, this year as much as any. But we also know that this year he was dealing with a hernia. Maybe the times he was having troubles hitting the ball, he was being bothered by that more. Or maybe it was just a cold streak. When he's hot, it seems almost like he can't miss the ball. When he's cold, much the opposite. With his all out swing, when he isn't hitting the ball, he doesn't look good at the plate. But when he connects, wow. 

His favorite team to hit against was the Cardinals (.429/.636/.1.286 in just 3 games). Among AL teams he did best against Seattle (.400/.500/1.000) and Detroit (.429/.515/.1.000). The team he did worst against would be the PAdres where he was 1 for 9 in 2 games. Among AL teams he hit worst against the A's, .115/.179/.231.

Jose hit line drives at slightly lower rate than in 2009 (14.4% in 2010, 16.7% in 2009). His ground ball rate went way down, from 41.3% in 2009 to 31.1% 2010. Fly balls went up (and often out) from 42.1% in 2009 to 54.5% in 2010. He walked a bit more, 14.6% compared to 13.9% and struck out a lot less, 20.4% down from 25.3%.

His longest hitting streak was 8 games. His longest hitless streak was 7 games.

Defensively, he played mostly RF (985.2 innings) and 3B (393 innings). He also played 18 innings at first and 3 innings in CF. In right field he made 3 errors for a .985 fielding average. You all know about his great arm, he had 12 assists from RF. His UZR/150 in RF was -4.2, meaning he was slightly worse than your average RFer. At third, he made just 4 errors for a .969 FA. His UZR/150 at third was -3.5, making him slightly worse than you average 3B.

As you know, Bautista is in the last year of arbitration, which puts Alex Anthopoulos in an interesting spot. Do you sign him to a multi year deal, figuring that this is his new level of play or do you go to arbitration or sign him to a one year deal and see if this is the way he is going to continue to play? The risk us that he will have more leverage after next season. Oh course, Jose has the same dilemma. If you are him, do you sign a long term deal this year or do you bet that you'll have another amazing season and then break the bank next year when you are a free agent?

One of the things I think happened, this past season, is that Cito and batting coach Dwayne Murphy seemed to be preaching an all out pull philosophy at the plate. For some guy I don't think it worked. I think Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay were better off to go with pitches instead of looking for one to pull all the time. For Jose, it worked great. Look for a pitch you can pull and hit it hard. We all remember that he didn't hit a home run to the opposite field until the last series of the season and that was as much luck as planning. 

We also learned pitchers shouldn't get him mad. If you came inside on him, he would make you pay. And, we learned, he can grow a beard over night. 

Whatever happens in the future, this past year Bautista was great fun to watch this year.