Will Jose Bautista Get Back To His Hank Aaron Award Winning Ways in 2013?

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Friday, February. 08/2013

Jose Bautista with fellow Hank Aaron Award winner Joey Votto in 2010. In 2010 Bautista became the 26th player to ever hit 50+ HRs in a single season, eclipsing the mark with 54.

Jose Bautista with fellow Hank Aaron Award winner Joey Votto in 2010. In 2010 Bautista became the 26th player to ever hit 50+ HRs in a single season, eclipsing the mark with 54.

By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Intern):

Who is Jose Bautista? He is a 32-Year Old, Dominican, Major League Baseball player. He is the starting Right Fielder and number 3 hitter in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup. He is a 3x All-Star (’10-’12), 2x Silver Slugger Award winner (’10-’11), and 2x Hank Aaron Award winner (’10-’11). Bautista is a former 20th round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirate s- who struggled to make any significant impact for a Major League team into his late 20’s. He arose from baseball obscurity and launched into the spotlight seemingly overnight. Bautista’s breakout campaign in 2010 was followed with an even better 2011, which was all foreshadowed by a promising September in ’09 – where he tapped into a power surge hitting 10 HRs in the month.

This was especially surprising since his career high for HRs in a season to that point was only 16 in ‘06. Modifications Bautista made in his swing were career changing. He completely reinvented the system he was using to time pitching, and it paid big dividends. Bautista’s success forced the Rogers Center to keep their roof open for all home games due to the amount of moonshots he was hitting. I’m only joking, but he did hit an MLB high 54 HRs in 2010 and 43 HRs in 2011.

Jose Bautista 2012 Highlights Mix:

Cito Gaston  is credited for fixing Jose Bautista's swing.

Cito Gaston is credited for fixing Jose Bautista’s swing when he arrived in Toronto.

However, like Isaac Newton said, “what goes up must come down.” As all of the Bautista bombs touched back down to Earth so did his out of this world pace of hitting, as he wrestled with injury and a less than spectacular start to his 2012 campaign. He missed nearly every game after July 17th when he was placed on the DL with a wrist injury. He would later return and almost immediately re-injured his wrist forcing him to get season ending surgery. Bautista played in 92 game is 2012, 90 prior to July 17th. The question is, will Bautista return to form and win another Hank Aaron Award?

The Hank Aaron Award is annually given to the player, from each league, that is selected as the top offensive player voted on by baseball fans, and media along with a special panel of Hall of Famers — personally selected by Hammerin’ Hank himself. The panel includes Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount. The last 5 AL winners of the award include Kevin Youkilis (’08), Derek Jeter (’09) Jose Bautista (’10-’11), and Miguel Cabrera in (’12). Alex Rodriguez has won the award for the AL 4 of 14 times since it was started in 1999. One interesting thing about the 2012 Hank Aaron Award nominees is that only 4 of 30 were nominated by their team last year (each team nominates one player for the award each year).

Only Miguel Cabrera was a repeat nomination for the AL (Tigers). Edwin Encarnacion was the nominee for the Blue Jays in 2012, and deservedly so. The 1st step for Bautista to regain the Hank Aaron Award will to be getting the nomination for the Blue Jays again, which won’t be as easy as in the past since they loaded up on talent this offseason. Even with an improved Blue Jays roster, and reigning Triple Crown winner and MVP Miguel Cabrera in the picture, I believe Jose Bautista has as good of a chance at winning the 2013 AL Hank Aaron Award as anybody.

How does it look Jose? Is another trot around the bases in order? Possibly one of the MLB high 124 HRs since 2010?

How does it look Jose? Is another trot around the bases in order? Possibly one of the MLB high 124 HRs since 2010?

Here are some important stats from Bautista since 2010:

2010: 161 GP, .260/.378/.617, 54 HR, 124 RBI, 109 R, 6.8 WAR, 134 wRC

2011: 149 GP, .302/.447/.608, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 R, 8.3 WAR, 139 wRC

2012: 92 GP, .241/.358/.527, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 64 R, 3.2 WAR, 66 wRC

And now here’s Bill James’ projection for Bautista in 2013:

2013: 153 GP, .259/.377/.529, 39 HR, 99 RBI, 96 R, 110 wRC

While I have a lot of respect for Bill James’ statistical brilliance, and while he’s usually pretty accurate, I feel he may be selling Bautista a little bit short in 2013. I’m going to go ahead and assume Bautista’s wrist is fine, which I have no reason to believe otherwise. James see’s Bautista’s power in ‘13 as being much more similar to ’12 than ’10 or ’11, but I think it makes sense that it would be somewhere in between. Bautista might not Slug over .600 again, but I think he will be a little north of .550, and could also easily eclipse the 40 HR and 100 RBI mark. I think James is probably more accurate when it comes to Bautista’s projected BA and OBP, but it is kind of hard to say for sure. Bautista had an outlying season of .302 BA and .447 OBP when his career numbers suggest he is more like a .260/.360 kind of hitter. It depends on whether you believe the increase was due to progress as a hitter or it was just a fluke. Even still, .260/.378 was good enough to win him the Hank Aaron in 2010.

Another thing that lends itself favorably is Bautista’s walk rate. Bautista may not have the highest Batting Average, but he can flat out get on base. In fact, since 2010 he has more Walks than Strikeouts. Bautista sees a lot of pitches per Plate Appearance (4.21 in ’10, 9th in MLB; 4.28 in ’11, 6th in MLB; and 4.28 again in ’12 although he did not qualify for league lead). This patience gets Bautista good balls to hit, which often spells trouble for opposing pitchers if they lack pinpoint control.

The Bautista high leg kick, which is now an integral part of his new and improved timing mechanism.

The Bautista high leg kick, which is now an integral part of his new and improved timing mechanism.

Just for fun I’ll throw out some of Bill James’ projections in 2013 for the reigning Hank Aaron Award winner in the AL, Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera 2013: 160 GP, .331/.413/.595, 38 HR, 126 RBI, 107 R, 136 wRC

I wouldn’t bet on anyone vs. “the field” to win the Hank Aaron Award in 2013 or any other year, but Jose Bautista would definitely be in my Top 5 contenders going into the season. It will not be easy with the likes of Cabrera and Mike Trout coming off incredible offensive seasons not to mention the AL also includes the likes of Josh Hamilton. Bautista is capable of a lot though. I think with a great season in 2010, an even better one in 2011, and a little bit of a backslide in 2012, 2013 will be the year we see what Bautista is really made of. Is he a true Superstar, or just the best hitter in Canada?

Jose Bautista doesn’t always eat hotdogs in an empty Rogers Center, but when he does, he wears a suit.

Jose Bautista doesn’t always eat hotdogs in an empty Rogers Center, but when he does, he wears a suit.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

Welcome  to our newest Baseball Intern: Ryan Dana:

 

Ryan Dana is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University. He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates.  Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast.  You can find Ryan on Twitterbase.

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Posted on February 8, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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