Before the season began, I’m fairly certain that most fans did believe Jose Bautista could get to 16 HRs in 2010, but I know for a fact that none would have predicted it would happen before we got to June. Jose had hit 16 HRs only once before in his career, in 2006 when he did so in 400 ABs. In comparison, that season he was hitting a HR every 25 ABs, whereas this season he is hitting a HR every 11 ABs. That’s a huge difference that has me wondering what’s changed in 2010? From what I gather, it’s simply the approach at the plate that has changed under Dwayne Murphy (the Jays batting coach) and Cito Gaston. Their philosophy of “when you see a pitch you like, hit it as hard as you can” is going a long way to making the Jays into a herd of Adam Dunn like hitters at the plate. Hack and hope. You can agree or disagree with the theory, but you can’t argue the results. According to Fangraphs, he Jays now have 88 HRs on the season – 19 more than the next highest team, the Red Sox who have hit 69 HRs. Sweet. Keep it up guys, I see no reason to change the mystery that lies behind the power stroke because it has made opposing pitchers wonder at how to stop the flow of HRs coming off of Jays bats.
The Yankees have spent money to lead these kind of categories. If I had told you when the season started that the Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez combination is crushing the Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez combination in terms of power output, I would have been laughed off the web. As it is, the Jays combo has 26 HRs to their credit, while the Yankees combo has 11 HRs to their credit – and the Yankees combo is playng in the biggest bang box there is in MLB, which makes this fact even worse for them. Is it a sign of things to come in NY? I believe it is. Neither Alex or Derek are getting any younger, and power and speed are the first things to go as players age. The Yankees are paying an average of 4.8 million per HR thus far in 2010 (52 million in salary to Jeter and Arod/11 HRs), whereas the Jays are paying .198 million per HR for their 26 from Jose and Alex (5.15 million / 26). Not a bad difference if you ask me!
Having said and shown all of that is currently working for the Jays and not for others like the Yankees, the Jays can’t expect Jose to keep this pace up. Pitchers will adjust to him and trust me, there is a book being written about him by every team in MLB to learn his tendencies – they will make adjustments. However, even a season where Jose hits 30 HRs makes the Jays a totally different squad overall, expecially when the rejuvenation of Vernon Wells is taken into account. It gives the Jays a power hitting CFer, 3rd baseman, and the possibility of adding a power hitting 1st baseman to the mix soon in Brett Wallace. Add the slow to start Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, and the power output – even if Jose’s does slow somewhat – is sure to continue for the Jays overall. No wonder Alex Anthopolous is close to considering the Jays to be buyers at the deadline. There is nothing really negative to say about this bunch of guys. They play hard, never say quit, play great D, are pitching extremely well, and are showing more power than all other MLB clubs. Why can’t we dream about the playoffs?
Well, the first argument comes from those who realize how light the Jays scheduling was in the first 2 months of the season. Unlike the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees who seem to get the majority of their match ups against one another in April and May, the Jays and Orioles usually get to face those teams in June and July. The argument nay sayers will use is that the Jays will most likely begin to slump as they face stiffer competition in June and that it will get worse as the season wears on. There is some validity to that argument, but it’s no stone cold fact. The truth of the matter is that the players have the power to change that trend, and it all begins this week as they open a series against the Rays, get a day off, then begin the next one against the Yankees. If the Jays really are true contenders, they have to win a minimum of 3 of 6 this week to prove it. Anything less would not be disastrous, but it would feed into the theory above and could make it too hard to come back to the front later on in the season. The Jays have a second series in 2 weeks against the Rays, so the next 3 series are statement series.
It will be interesting to see how well the Jays do during this span of games. I know they’ll be ecstatic to come out of those games with 5 wins or more and it would make quite the statement if they did. So long as Jose Bautista and the rest of the Jays Bombers keep up the mashing, I see no reason to believe that they can’t win that many in the 9 games against the division rivals.