Jose Bautista: Patience and Power
Jose Bautista’s breakout has been one of baseball’s most interesting stories of the past two years. From 2006 to 2009 Bautista was a slightly below-average hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays, hitting between 13 and 16 home runs each year. But since the start of 2010 Bautista has hit more HRs, 74, than anyone else in the majors — Albert Pujols is second with 55. Over that time he also leads the league in walks taken with 152 and walks per plate appearance, 16.6%. All those walks and home runs make Bautista the best hitter, as measured by wOBA, since the start of 2010. Here I am going to look deeper into Bautista’s success.
Bautista is a pronounced pull-HR hitters. Of his 74 HRs since the start of 2010 just three have gone to the opposite field (that is had a horizontal angle of less than 90° according HitTracker). That is fewer opposite-field HRs than any other player on the 2010-2011 top 10 HR list — even though he tops the list.
With this extreme pull power one would assume he couldn’t handle away pitches as well. Pitchers have assumed as much, Garik16 showed that pitchers have incredibly pitched him away. But he also showed that Bautista has gotten better over the past three years at dealing with those outside pitches, and now has a positive run value on them. Here is a big reason why. This graph shows the horizontal pitch location on each pitch Bautista has hit for a HR since the start of 2010, and then the angle of that HR in play.
Here is a set of graphs showing the how often Bautista sees pitches in each location, based on the intensity of the blue, and Bautista’s 50% swing contour. So Bautista was more likely than not to swing at a pitch within the contour, and more likely than not to take a pitch outside it.
Around the end of April Dave Cameron suggested that Jose Bautista might be the best hitter in the AL. Since then Bautista has continued to hit like crazy, and his ZIPS rest of the season projected wOBA is now the best in baseball: an amazing ascent for a batter who went into the 2010 as an at-best average hitter.