Blue Jays Prediction: Jose Bautista, 2015 MVP
With the 2015 season starting, there are bound to be many bold predictions out there. Our staff looked at the Blue Jays roster and chose our own award winners already. While there are no guarantees in baseball, particularly when trying to predict award winners, I thought I’d test my powers of clairvoyance anyway. Here you go:
Jose Bautista will be the AL MVP in 2015.
Now, it would be neglectful if we did not have the conversation about just how the MLB MVP voting works. According to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), each MLB city gets two writers to vote for awards. Toronto would get 2, New York 2, etc. These writers are chosen by the local chapter chair. That means that there are 60 writers in total who will vote for the MVP, 30 in each league. So, Jose Bautista will have to convince 28 other city’s writers to vote for him.
There in lies one of the biggest hurdles in his way. There may be an ignorance on the part of North American media when it comes to a player playing in Toronto. In order to grab attention, said player would have to perform that much better than those in American cities. The notion that Toronto is one of the largest markets in MLB doesn’t seem to matter. The fact is that these writers don’t get a regular look at Bautista. And, there is also a major infatuation (perhaps rightfully so) with Mike Trout. Trout would have to suffer a major injury or be abducted by aliens in order to have those writers look elsewhere.
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There are many things that go into why a player earns recognition in these glorified popularity contests, his overall performance being paramount. Extra points go to guys who carry their teams to the post season, etc. Occasionally, previous years’ performances puts a guy at the forefront. As as is the case with Mike Trout, he’s built up a resume that some will find hard to ignore even if his season is lesser than that of others.
Now, one could argue that Jose Bautista has built up a resume that people will not forget any time soon. He led the league in HR in 2010 (54) and 2011 (43) and he’s been near the top of the league ever since. Over the last 5 seasons, he’s collected 187 deep flies. He’s been an All Star in each of those seasons. He’s finished in the top 10 for MVP voting thrice and as high as 3rd (2010). So, he’s got the credentials. But, as much as he’s done in the past, what will ultimately turn votes his way will be his 2015 performance. Can he build off of this past success?
Jose Bautista is getting better. As I described a while back, he has become more of a complete hitter, using the field more to his advantage. Basically, I outlined the growth in not only hitting the ball the other way, but for more base hits. He is improving the way he uses the field and defense to his advantage. With the increased implementation of the shift, Bautista is learning how to use it to his advantage. As I wrote previously, he is increasing his ability to go the other way to bring a wider arsenal to his approach at the plate. There was a time when Bautista appeared to be trying to pull the ball and hit home runs. But, over the last couple seasons, he’s become a smarter hitter.
But, so what? There are lots of smart hitters out there. True. But, are those smart hitters at the heart of a very potent lineup? Bautista will have the benefit of Jose Reyes and Russell Martin ahead of him. In theory, he’ll have more situations to drive in runs. We should also add that it is possible that he could come to the plate with the speed of Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis on base too. With the table set in front of him and the power of Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson behind him, Bautista will benefit by having more opportunities to pad his stats (and more importantly help his team win).
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But, the MVP vote is based on individual performance. Can Bautista help himself? Of course. As mentioned above, his approach at the plate has matured. This has culminated with a 2014 season where he showed signs of situational hitting. For example, (according to FanGraphs.com) in medium leverage situations, he hit .282/.388/.502. In high leverage at bats, his average took a dip to .250, but his OBP soared to .426! He became even more selective at times of importance, refusing to sell out to the HR. His BB% went up to an impressive 25.5%. Add this to an average of .307 with runners in scoring position (also an increase from when the bases are empty- his BB% with RISP also increased to 19.8% compared to 13.8% with bases empty) and you have a hitter who has the right approach to put up some serious numbers.
All of this points to a potential increase to the numbers that MVP voters want to see. That, combined with the belief that the Blue Jays are in a position to compete this year and you get the perfect storm for an MVP candidate.
Of course, the player must also exhibit defensive skills. We all know about his arm in right field. It has stopped many runner from advancing. It has also thrown out many. Just ask the Royals. In fact, his arm is worth 5.5 runs above average. He had a UZR/150 rating of 5.7. Bautista may not win a Gold Glove in RF, but he does bring solid defense. It is good enough that it should not detract from his credentials as an MVP.
If we, for a second, assume that the BBWAA will be equally open to considering a player from the Toronto Blue Jays and we consider the lineup he is hitting in and his growth at the plate, we see a player who is set up for a season to remember. Of course, there is so much that has to break right for anyone to win an MVP award. And, things have to go wrong for Mike Trout. But, as of right now, with exactly ZERO games played in the 2015 season, I am perfectly comfortable with declaring, Jose Bautista as the 2015 American League MVP!
I expect there to be a level of debate and contention with this, so feel free to have your say below.