Jays From the Couch brings you the Player Highlights & Lowlights from the 2017 season. This time: The Legend, Jose Bautista
The Toronto Blue Jays have said goodbye to the legend Jose Bautista after declining the mutual option on his contract. And, it doesn’t look like he’ll be back in Toronto after recent comments by GM, Ross Atkins. So, this is it. Joey Bats will end his tenure in Toronto with 2017 being the last memory we have. However, the other memories he’s given millions of fans will far outweigh this season’s performance. As he heads to the offseason as a free agent, he’s hoping others will feel the same.
It might be tough to point out the highlights of Bautista’s 2017 season. Undoubtedly, his farewell game at Rogers Centre stands out as one for many people who were lucky enough to be in attendance and for many others at home. After his teammates allowed him to take the field by himself to be recognized to start the game, manager John Gibbons let him take the field in the 9th and pulled him so that everyone in attendance could send him off properly.
Despite the rather disappointing end result of this season, Bautista offered some positives that we have to acknowledge. While the home run total is a far cry from his previous years, he did manage to hit 23, which topped his 2016 total from a season ago. And, for a guy who saw a drop in ISO (.164 is a drop in almost 50 pts), he saw an increase in doubles this season with 3 more for a total of 27. And, if you’re keeping track, he also scored an increased amount of runs this year. He scored 92 times while 2016 saw him cross the plate 68 times. But, yes. If we’re looking at runs scored as highlights, we are really pushing things, since runs scored has so much to do with his teammates.
But, perhaps we can find a little more positivity in his defense. That’s right. For the last few years, we’ve been hearing about declining defense. His range, his reads and his routes have been questionable. Moreover, since he injured his shoulder a while back, his throwing arm hasn’t been up to its usual standards.
But, that didn’t prove to fully carry over to this season. While his DRS mark of -8 stayed the same over last year, his UZR/150 was improved. It went from -9.3 to 0.0. Now, zero doesn’t exactly sound encouraging, but considering how much flack he’d been getting, it is a more than acceptable improvement. It might even be enough to prove to other teams that he can still contribute in the outfield.
This section might be a little easier to do. We can start with the un-Bautista- like slash line: .203/.308/366. One could get over the dip in batting average if Bautista were still walking like we’re used to seeing. But, he wasn’t. His BB% dropped nearly 5% this season. He had 84 walks this season, which was 3 fewer than last year, but he played in 41 more games. As well, Bautista struck out an unfathomable 170 times for a K% of 24.8%. He struck out in nearly 1/4 of his at bats.
But, this isn’t the only concerning area. His FB/HR rate dropped by nearly 5%. While he was hitting a touch more ball sin the air, they were leaving the ballpark at a worse rate than previous years. This is partly due to a significant drop in hard contact: a loss of nearly 10%. His medium contact rose by about 10%.
His contact rate sunk to its lowest level since 2004, when he played for four different teams. And, while he swung at more pitches (41% Swing%), he saw a jump of almost 4% in his SwStr% to 10.9%. Simply, Jose Bautista had difficulty putting the bat on the ball. Anecdotal evidence would tell you he looked off balance all year. Some would say that is an aging bat trying to compensate for bat speed, which is something that he’ll deny.
But, according to Statcast, his average exit velocity was just 88.3 mph, when it had been 92 mph in 2015 and ..And, when ranked among major league players by barreled balls per plate appearance, he sits 160th with 4.1. In 2015, he ranked 9th in baseball at 8.4 Brls/PA and in 2016, he ranked 91st at 5.6 Brls/PA. All of this certainly points to a declining bat.
As for his defense, while on the surface, it looks passable, a deeper look at Fangraphs will bring up the Fans Scouting Report, which provides the following marks: Instincts: 34, First Step: 28, Speed: 32, Hands: 34, Release: 51, Arm Strength: 50, Arm Accuracy: 47, Overall: 40. All of these values are significant decreases from year to year.
This might be the most interesting question of the offseason. Jose Bautista will tell you he can still play. His agent will to, obviously. The Toronto Blue Jays have made it very clear that they don’t see how a 37 yr old can possibly fit into their plans for 2018. That means that the former Face of the Toronto Blue Jays will be looking for a new team this winter. Obviously, we should throw in the caveat that he could return to the Toronto because any deal, at the right price can make a guy fit into any team’s plans.
That said, it seems highly unlikely. Instead, he will hope that one of 29 other teams will be willing to take a flyer on a guy who has definitely lost a step, but isn’t that far removed from the Bat Flipping BMF that took Toronto by storm. He has the resume, but baseball is very much a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business. Jose Bautista will hope that what he’s done lately will be enough to land him a job in 2018.
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