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Appreciating Jose Bautista's unmatched peak

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Jose Bautista's production over the last five years have been unlike any in Blue Jays history.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

When it's all said and done there is a not insignificant chance that Jose Bautista goes down as the greatest Blue Jays position player of all time.

Depending on the value one places on playoff performances that could seem like an absurd notion. After all, Bautista has authored very few of the franchise's iconic moments and is running out of time to do so in the future. However, the idea of a "GOAT" is ultimately a subjective one, with every observer bringing their own set of criteria.

Personally, I don't believe in penalizing players for the ineptitude of their teammates. Mike Trout has been my choice for MVP for three straight years and for me Bautista is in the conversation as the greatest position player in Jays history without a playoff appearance.

Another hurdle for Bautista is that his lack of longevity with the Jays means he's unlikely to make an assault on the record books for any counting stats. He's 133 home runs and over 500 RBI behind Carlos Delgado on the team's leaderboard and it would take a contract extension and sustained production into his late 30's to catch up to the beloved slugger.

What Bautista has done is put together a five-year peak unlike any Blue Jays fans have witnessed in the team's 38-year history. Since reinventing himself as one of the game's premier home run hitters in 2010, he has produced the following line.

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

wRC+

WAR

.272

.393

.559

187

159

27.7

Those numbers are astounding, especially within the context of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise. In order to see how Bautista compared to other Jays legends, I took the top 15 Blue Jays position players by WAR and put their best five consecutive seasons (also by WAR) with Toronto up against his.

Player Years AVG OBP SLG HR wRC+ WAR
Jose Bautista 2010-2014 .272 .393 .559 187 159 27.7
Jesse Barfield 1984-1988 .274 .346 .493 127 124 25.0
Carlos Delgado 1998-2002 .293 .410 .584 195 149 24.7
Tony Fernandez 1986-1990 .291 .340 .404 35 104 22.1
Lloyd Moseby 1983-1987 .277 .355 .456 101 118 22.0
Devon White 1991-1995 .270 .327 .432 72 103 20.9
Roberto Alomar 1991-1995 .307 .382 .451 55 125 20.4
Fred McGriff 1986-1990 .278 .389 .530 125 152 19.7
John Olerud 1992-1996 .305 .408 .484 78 134 19.1
Vernon Wells 2003-2007 .283 .336 .488 132 111 18.3
Alex Rios 2004-2008 .288 .338 .455 67 106 16.8
Shannon Stewart 1998-2002 .301 .371 .451 66 114 16.5
George Bell 1984-1988 .291 .332 .512 156 124 16.2
Ernie Whitt 1985-1989 .259 .336 .435 81 109 14.7
Rance Mulliniks 1983-1987 .292 .370 .455 45 123 13.1

Bautista is not head and shoulders above this crowd, but he's clearly at the top. Only Delgado exceeded his raw power numbers and the first baseman had the luxury of hitting in baseball's most offence-friendly era. Bautista stood above his peers with the bat more than anyone on this list.

The only hitter close to his wRC+ is McGriff who only had four full seasons with the Jays and may have been able to match Bautista's lofty standard if given another year with Toronto. That being said, he was also a first baseman who offered less defensively.

This chart relies fairly heavily on WAR, which is probably a sticking point for some. WAR does indeed have its flaws, but it is absolutely the best tool available to compare players at different positions across multiple eras. Additionally, Bautista's value primarily came from his offensive numbers, meaning his WAR was not inflated by potentially fishy defensive metrics.

Jose Bautista's legacy with the Blue Jays will likely be determined in the next couple of seasons. If the team can make the playoffs he will be seen as a catalyst to ending the drought and mumbles about his attitude and behaviour towards the umpires will be forgotten.

If he can't take the Jays to the promised land, many fans may not appreciate what he brought to the franchise. Bautista is 5.5 WAR away from first on the Jays all-time position player list, with two more seasons under team control. Barring major injury, sudden decline, or an unlikely trade, he will be the franchise's WAR leader.

However, if he doesn't play in the playoffs fans may never see him as the greatest hitter to ever don the Blue Jays uniform. Without October magic he will lack the big memorable moments.

The whole debate about Bautista's spot on the Blue Jays Mount Rushmore will wait until he retires or leaves town, but perhaps in the meantime it's worth noting that for half a decade he has produced like no player this city has ever seen.