Blue Jays: Bautista striking out at a career worst rate

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Jose Bautista
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Jose Bautista /

Jose Bautista struck out two more times on Friday night against the Angels bringing his season total to 108. His career high is just 116, so he’s on pace to shatter that previous mark by the time the season is over.

Things haven’t gone perfectly for Jose Bautista this year, but he has been one of the few position players to remain healthy throughout the schedule. Last year he battled injuries with two different DL stints, which many believed cut into his performance at the plate.

In 2017 he’s remained healthy, but he hasn’t produced as he, or the club would have hoped. He’s been struggling a lot, especially since the beginning of July, as he’s hit just .176/.301/.318 for the month, and has a season slash line of .221/.332/.394 with 16 home runs and 44 RBI.

As he was last year, Bautista has been moved to the lead off spot, which has no doubt cut into his RBI numbers a bit. That said, he’s had other issues at the plate, some of which we’ve never seen from the Dominican star before.

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With his two strikeouts on Friday evening, Bautista’s season total is now at 108. That is particularly notable for a couple reasons:

1) In his last full, injury free season, “Joey Bats” had just 106 strikeouts across 153 games. Bautista has appeared in just 103 games this season.

2) His career high is 116, which came in 2010 when he also had 54 home runs.

The franchise icon has carved himself a reputation as having one of the better batting eyes in the game, which is how you end up with a .332 OBP when you’re hitting just .221. Still, we’ve never witnessed so many swing and misses from the 6 time All-Star, and the trend is troubling to say the least. Even in the month of May when he hit .317 and looked like the feared slugger we’ve come to know, he still struck out 23 times. For him that’s a lot, especially at a time when he was performing well at the plate.

He’s been a strong voice and vocal leader in the clubhouse for a long time, and with a season full of struggles for the club it’s entirely possible that he’s been pressing at the plate more than usual. It’s also possible that it’s simply a case of Father Time catching up to another great player. That’s not to say that the 36 year old doesn’t have a few good seasons of baseball left in him, and even stretches where he looks like one of the elite hitters in the MLB, but prolonged periods of greatness could be beyond him at this point.

In 450 plate appearances this season, he’s struck out 108 times, just shy of one out of every four times to the plate (24%). I never thought I’d write something like that about a hitter as good as Jose Bautista, but this season has been full of all kinds of surprises.

Next: Could Ryan Tepera join the rotation in the future?