The Blue Jays need for Jose Bautista
Since April 22nd, Jose Bautista has been limited to the designated hitter’s role in the Blue Jays lineup because of an ailing throwing shoulder, aggravated when he tried gunning out Delmon Young at first base.
In that time, the Jays have laboured through the season with a 13-19 record, good enough for last place in the American League East.
From the roadside, Bautista hasn’t looked much better. His current slash is a horrid .215/.364/.454 and, as said, he’s holding up a position that his sidekick Edwin Encarnacion is much more physically and statistically suited for.
But is it time to put Bautista on the disabled list and thus allow Encarnacion and Justin Smoak to take more at-bats and less time on the field? No, we’re not there just yet.
Despite having a batting average merely eclipsing the feared mendoza line, Bautista is actually having one of the best seasons of any designated hitter across the American League. His walk rate of 18.8% is the top of the class with his on-base percentage ranking fourth.
Really, the only reason Bautista’s batting average is so poor is due to some bad batted-ball luck. Bautista’s BABIP sits at an ugly .223, far below the .296 league average. While you cannot dismiss Bautista’s low batting average with one simple number, when you break apart his contact rates, you can see his 2015 is not so different than past years.
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According to FanGraphs, Bautista has been making exactly the same amount of hard contact this year (34.7%) as in 2014 where he was much more successful, you could say. As you can probably imagine, the harder one hits the ball, the more success they typically have at the plate.
With that said, he has seen a dip in his medium contact rate that has increased in his soft contact but even his 23.8% soft rate is nothing to write home about.
It’s more likely Bautista’s low batting average is a product of a smaller sample size of at-bats. Because he’s walked in 18.8% of his plate appearances–second only to Bryce Harper— it’s hard for him to get the at-bats he needs to normalize that small sample of batting average.
Although Bautista has only been worth 1.0 WAR, he’s too valuable to take out of the lineup unless he physically needs to. Add to that the alternatives at the DH position and it should be easy to keep him in the lineup. No doubt Encarnacion is a valuable option at the position but he can be added in when possible with Bautista needing the occasional day off.
In all likelihood, this will be for the short-term anyways with reports indicating he may return to the outfield for inter-league play against the Washington Nationals next week.
All this may be for nothing if his return is premature and he re-aggravates his shoulder, causing him to hit the disabled list at a more pressing and costly time.
If all goes as scheduled, this will all blow over and Bautista will continue to be what he was last season: one of the top right-fielders in Major League Baseball.