Everybody knows that Jose Bautista has put up ridiculous power numbers this year. Bautista’s 43 home runs are eight more than second place Albert Pujols and his .355 ISO is 53 points above Miguel Cabrera‘s and only trails Josh Hamilton’s batting average by six points. Those are impressive numbers and a large reason why Jose Bautista has a .426 wOBA this season.
It’s important to realize, however, that Bautista has not been a one-dimensional hitter this year. The power has been the driving force behind his line, but Bautista also has a .385 OBP this season. That ability to reach base is largely based on a fantastic 14.9% walk rate, the best of his career and second in the league among qualified pitchers behind Daric Barton.
Although he’s never seen this many free passes, the ability to walk is not something new for Bautista. Since 2006, Bautista has had an above average walk rate every season and has eclipsed 11% three times including 2010. Bautista’s walk rates since 2006 have been 116%, 131%, 108%, 156%, and 175% of the league average, and that’s why Bautista was basically a league average hitter over his time in Pittsburgh.
The discussion with Bautista always seems to turn to his performance next year, and for good reason. For as impressive as Bautista’s power is, we simply don’t learn much about a player’s true power talent from only 500 or 600 plate appearances. That’s why ZiPS projects a drop in ISO from .355 to .230.
Despite this projected drop in power to human levels, Bautista is still seen as a well above average hitter by ZiPS and that’s because Bautista has had and continues to have above average plate discipline. ZiPS projects a 13.7% walk rate, and given Bautista’s track record, it’s hard to imagine much of a deviation from that number.
The question of Bautista’s performance next year is a worthwhile one, and for a variety of reasons it’s no sure thing that his power remains at such a high level. However, even with a decline, Bautista should be able to remain an above average hitter, and that’s due to his fantastic patience at the plate and ability to reach base via the walk. That should continue to make him a viable hitter, and any extra power only serves to increase his offensive value.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.