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The season that was: Jose Bautista

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A look at Jose’s 2017 season.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

In 2016, Jose Bautista had his worst season since his first season as a member of the Blue Jays. After a great 2015 season, and a clutch, bat flip, home run in the playoffs, we expected better.

He spent a lot of that season injured and, when he wasn’t on the DL, he was sore. It wasn’t the way he wanted to go into free agency.

And then, when he hit free agency, he didn’t find anyone that really wanted him. There were some talks, some rumors, maybe an offer, but nothing that persuaded Jose to leave Toronto.

And the Jays seemed to be having trouble getting anyone to take their money. They made an early offer to Edwin Encarnacion, but Edwin wanted to test the market. They talked about Dexter Fowler. There was talk of a trade for Charlie Blackmon. Josh Reddick. And many more rumors, but nothing came of any of it.

It seemed that both Jose and the Blue Jays were running out of choices, that they were on their way to a shot gun wedding.

And that’s what happened.

Now I figured that Jose would have a bounce back season. I thought ‘proving everyone wrong’ would drive him to a good year.

Yeah I was wrong.

                                                                                
Year   Age   G  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+ HBP
2017    36 157 587 92 119 27  0 23  65  6  3 84 170 .203 .308 .366 .674   76   8

He set a career high in at bats, and played more games than he had in any season since 2010. Baseball Reference had him at a -1.7 WAR. FanGraphs was gentler having him at a -0.5 WAR.

His wOBA was .295 and wRC+ was 80.

Compared to 2016, Jose’s walk rate was down (12.2%, from 16.8) and his strikeout rate was up (24.8%, from 19.9).

His line drive rate was down (16.5%, from 18.8). Ground ball rate down (37.7%, from 39.5). Fly ball rate up (45.8%, from 41.7). Far fewer of his fly balls left the park (11.9%, down from 16.3).

His BABIP was down (.239, down from .255 in 2016).

For the third year in a row, Jose had reverse splits, if only slightly reversed this year (.203/.310/.377 vs RHP, .201/.298/.331 vs LHP).

He hit better on the road (.221/.320/.385) than at home (.182/.294/.345). No man in white I guess.

With RISP Jose hit .191/.320/.409.

He was much better in the first half (.234/.249/.400) than in the second half (.165/.256/.326).

Jose by month:

  • April: .178/.309/.244 with 1 home run, in 25 games.
  • May: .317/.412/.644 with 9 home runs, in 28 games.
  • June: .200/.298/.340 with 4 home runs, in 26 games.
  • July: .162/.274/.293 with 2 home runs, in 26 games.
  • August: .158/.265/.317 with 4 home runs, in 26 games.
  • September: .198/.284/.344 with 3 home runs, in 26 games.

Boy, May was great wasn’t it. I don’t understand how he could hit so great in May and not at all the rest of the season.

His defense was better than it has been the past few years. He had a 0 UZR/150, a huge improvement from the -9.3 in 2016 and the -12.5 in 2015. Most of the improvement was his arm, he was throwing much better than he has for the past few years. He had 10 outfield assists (he had 9 in 2015 and 2016 added together).

He played 30 innings at third base (and looked pretty good there) and had 1 inning at first.

FanGraphs had him at a -4.9 runs as a baserunner. Last year he was -5.2, after be a +2.3 the year before. He stole 6 bases, caught 3 times (so pretty much break even).

His longest hitting streak was 7 games. Longest on base streak 16 games. His longest stretch without a home run was 20 games.

His favorite team to face? He hit .250/.464/.750 with 3 home runs in 7 games against the Mariners. He hit .500/.556/.875 with 1 home run in 4 games against the Braves.

Least favorite? He hit just .077/.143/.077 in 6 games against the White Sox.

Jose started 141 games in right field, 11 games at DH and 5 games at third.

He hit:

  • Leadoff: 51 times, hitting .200/.305/.375.
  • Second: 19 times, hitting .209/.338/.328.
  • Third: 56 times, hitting .229/.332/.434.
  • Fourth: 30 times, hitting .158/.252/.254.

For years now, I’ve been saying that Jose should get a day off of playing the field once a week. I thought he should have been told he was DH on Wednesdays (or whatever day you choose) or given that day off. At 36, he shouldn’t have played 157 games.

Or that he should have been moved to first base (or DH).

He did seem to wear down as the season went on (not that he looked great at the start of the season).

It wasn’t a great way for his Blue Jays career to end. My wife will tell you that I see baseball as a metaphor for everything in life. Jose’s season last season was just like life, the end is rarely pretty.

But I’m glad we got the chance to say goodbye.

When Jose joined the Jays, we had a pretty boring team. Grant Brisbee made many jokes about how boring the team was. After Jose, we weren’t boring anymore. We had some swagger. Teams/fans hated us. It was much much better than being boring. Even though we weren’t a good team, for the first few years of Jose’s time on the team, at least we were interesting.

I’m ok with him being hated by opposing teams and fans. The Reggie Jackson line about ‘they don’t boo nobodies’ works great.

He’s been a part of the team for so long, and he’s been the ‘face’ of the team, for so long that I have a hard time thinking of the team without him. It’s been a long time since I’ve cheer for Joseless team. It will be interesting.

I never thought I’d ever see another player who was as intense as Jose, and then we get Josh Donaldson. One of the reasons I’d like the Jays to re-sign Josh is to keep that little bit as swagger that Jose brought us.

I don’t know if Bautista playing career is over. He had a hard time finding a contract last year. It won’t be any easier after this season. I wouldn’t bet against him being able to bounce back, if he were to DH or play first. Or perhaps he could be a bit a a utility player. He looked better at third base than I expected.

If he doesn’t get a playing job, I could see him finding a job in a front office. He’s smart. He’s knowledgeable about the game. I can’t see him taking a coaching job. The batting coach is a ton of work for little money. I don’t see him doing that. And I don’t see him taking a manager job in the minors (to train for managing in the majors). Rarely, does someone, who has made as many millions as Jose, want to ride buses for a summer.

But I can see him taking an advisory job in a front office. Or come out to spring training to be a guess instructor.

If it is the end of his playing career, I’d like to thank him for making so many great memories. I remember going to a games in Seattle, back in 2009 and, in one of them, Seattle had a runner on second, and there was a single to left, and I was thinking run and watched the batter rounding first, when a saw the ball go by me on a line. Bautista made a great throw (playing left field that day) and got the runner at the plate. It was the first time I got the chance to see his arm live and it was such a terrific throw.

And, of course, there were all the home runs. Seeing him hit a ball clear out of Fenway, while surrounded by Red Sox fans, was great fun.

And the bat flip. That’s one that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Where ever life takes him from here, I’ll always think of him as a Blue Jay.