Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Many Home Runs Will Bautista Hit in 2011?


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In 2010, Jose Bautista went yard an unprecedented 54 times. He circled the bases on 54 occasions and made franchise history by hitting the most home runs in a single season by a Blue Jay.

No matter how many different ways you put it, for me it still hasn't sunk in that Jose Bautista rewrote the record books this past season.

This is especially true for someone who was projected to hit 15 home runs, and instead Bautista hit a Paul Konerko season's worth of home runs more than he was expected to

There's no question Jose Bautista is going to have an uphill battle trying to duplicate that power in 2011, but just how many home runs can we expect from the bearded one? First off, let's take a look at his projections for this upcoming season courtesy of ZIPS and Bill James:

Projection Home Runs
ZiPS 32
Bill James 34
FanGraphs Fans 35

At the bottom end of these projections, Bautista's home run total is expected to drop off by as much as 41 percent. While that's a fairly large statistical descent, I'd say those are still fairly generous expectations for Joey Bats.

One thing that could contribute to Jose Bautista's home run drop-off is that opposing pitchers will be ready for him in 2011. They tried to change their game plan against Jose by feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls, but Bautista adjusted and ended up either crushing off-speed pitches or drawing a walk.

You know that managers around the league and especially within the AL East will be furiously studying the tapes of Bautista's at bats, searching for some flaw or weakness in his game. If they're smart, opposing pitchers will be weary of feeding inside fastballs to Jose.

Now while these things may attribute to Jose Bautista's home run total going down this year, let's take into consideration what might in fact help him this year. How about the fact he played a good chunk of the season with a nagging sports hernia?

A lesser man would cower in pain, but Jose Bautista used the pain as motivation to hit even more dingers. If I'm the opposition, I'd hate to see the kind of power Bautista has when he's 100 percent healthy.

Making accurate predictions about certain players is a crap shoot. This is especially true when trying to estimate Jose Bautista's home run total because 2010 was such an outlier year which makes it extremely difficult to gauge what we can expect in 2011.

Perhaps a more intriguing question to ask rather than how many home runs Jose Bautista will hit in 2011 is how many walks will he draw? Or can he effectively boost his batting average while still maintaining a decent on-base clip?

Maybe we'll see a transformation by Bautista in 2011 similar to that of Billy "Downtown" Anderson from Major League: Back to the Minors (I know, not as great as the original ... but just bear with me on this one).

In the film, Anderson is a one trick-pony that only has one weapon in his arsenal: the long ball. After falling into a slump, the character realizes he needs to become a more complete player. So he begins to work to break the mold of a home run hitter and tried to become an on-base machine by going opposite field, hitting the gap, and legging out extra bases.

I'm not saying life will necessarily imitate art in this instance, but depending on how the first few months of the season unfold for Jose Bautista, he may need to make some adjustments just like Downtown did. And if that means Bautista only hits one more opposite field home run than 2010, then I'm all for it.

If all we have to go on are Bill James, ZIPS and FanGraphs projections, I'd venture to guess the over/under on home runs for Jose Bautista this year is 27. Not that I'm trying to sell him short, I'll just take 2010 for what it was and will try not to let it cloud my expectations for JoBau this coming season.

The fans may dig the long ball after being witness to so many Bautista Bombs in 2010; but in the long run ... even if Jose Bautista's power drops off significantly, I think they'll dig the on-base percentage just as much.

18 comments:

  1. I think those projections are accurate. I was thinking in the 29-33 range.

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  2. "Let's see. We play thirty games. Ten at-bats a game. Mmm...Three thousand."

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  3. shk66, personally I'd be pleased with anything in the 30 HR range. 2011 will be the real litmus test to see if Bautista's a true home run hitter.

    sadp, "yeah ... well I've got an enchanted bat, too. And an enchanted jock strap!"

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  4. When it comes to players who have no business hitting 50 home runs (in the non steroid era) The person I always think of is George Foster, where at the age of 28 he hit 52 home runs and then never matched that kind of success again. However, he did hit 40 home runs the next season, so I'm going to predict that Jose Bautista follows that same path and hits 40 dingers next year.

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  5. Navin, I'm holding you to that 71 home run prediction. Book it in Vegas!

    Peter, very interesting find! I only hope that Bautista can sustain his power, but I guess we'll see what happens!

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  6. The fact that 100% of Bautista's homers were to left (except maybe one?) and almost all of them were on fastballs is a little troublesome, but the fact that he has such a good eye mitigates that a lot. As you said, Ian, pitchers can't just throw him a breaking ball diet because he'll just lay off. I could see Jose drawing a lot of walks this year.

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  7. I just wrote a piece on what I expect from Bautista, Wells, Hill and Lind in 2011.

    I figure Jose Bautista is an extreme example of Jayson Werth, rather than an example of Luis Gonzalez or Brady Anderson. I believe he'll have a few more good, although not super-human years.

    My prediction for him this year is a .250/.350/.500 line. Beyond 2011, I believe his on-base percentage will drop off more because pitchers and opposing managers will fear him less as his numbers come back down to earth.

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  8. I'll be very happy with 25 plus. Very...

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  9. Xave, you're right - 53 of 54 were to left field. The lone opposite shot was at Target Field. I don't have the stats on hand to back this up, but I believe Bautista was predominantly crushing fastballs at the start of the season. As the year progressed, be began to hit breaking balls for home runs as well. Unreal.

    Travis, personally I'd like to see Bautista boost his batting average and on-base in 2011, but I guess we'll take what we can get. Only time will tell!

    Matt, I'd also be perfectly happy with 25 home runs from Jose. If that's the case, it would be his second highest home run total in a single season, nothing too shabby about that at all!

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  10. 62. #jobauwillcrushyou

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  11. Andy, remember - JoBau will crush you, and then hug you afterwards.

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  12. 32-35? I like those numbers. I just argued at MissingBJ that now is the time to sign J-Bau to a 3-5 year contract. Obviously, a regression to less than 20 HR would make that kind of contract a bigger disaster than Rios’s $60MM deal.

    I’m guessing about 25-30 HR for Bautista in 2011. If he can keep the OBP up above .350 as well, that would be just fine, thank you.

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  13. Not only George Foster - also Cecil Fielder, after a season away in Japan. The guy had never hit more than 14, then he went 51, 44 and continued with high 20s to high 30s for 6 more years. I could live with that.

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  14. Roberto, I'd love to see the Jays sign Bautista to an extension, but as the free agency clock starts ticking, I have a feeling he's going to walk a free man.

    If the Jays were leaning towards signing him to a multi-year deal beyond 2 years, I think they would have done it by now to avoid that gigantic raise Bautista would get through arbitration.

    QJays, I could also live with that. Sustaining somewhere in the low 20's would be great, so long as the stellar defense keeps up, I'd be happy with that.

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  15. not as great as the original? but quantum leap was in it! blasphemy!!

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  16. effiejp, I also enjoyed Scott Bakula (aka Mr. Quantum Leap) in his performance, but without Rick Vaughn, Jake Taylor or even Willy Mayes Hayes, it just wasn't the same.

    But at least they had Cerrano!

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