We all know that Jose Bautista is destroying worlds this season: the Bautista (hat tip: Bradley Woodrum) has mashed 20 homeruns and posted a .513 wOBA, accumulated 5 WAR in only 61 games. To put that in some perspective, his .513 wOBA would rank 22nd all-time if the season ended today, and when you adjust for the scoring environment, it’d rank as the fourth best offensive season in major league history (trailing only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds). He’s having a season for the record books.
In thinking about this recently, I started pondering: how does Bautista’s homerun pace compare with other all-time great seasons? We’re all captivated by a homerun race, and while Bautista isn’t going to break any single-season homerun records, has his homerun pace been as impressive as the rest of his season? And so, I decided to compare his 2011 season against batters that hit 70+ homeruns (Bonds, 2001), 65 homeruns (McGwire, 1999), 60 homeruns (Ruth, 1927), and 54 homeruns (Bautista, 2010). Take a peek:
Please realize that is NOT meant to be predictive, and not meant to suggest that Bautista is going to mash 60 homeruns; it’s merely a kicks and giggles. As you can see, 60 games into the year, almost all the top homerun season are fairly close together; Barry Bonds is the lone exception, but the rest of the seasons are all somewhere between the low-20s and high-teens. Heck, Mark McGwire only had 19 homeruns at this point in the season, and he went on to hit 65. Anything can happen going forward.
But like Bonds in the years after 2001, Bautista needs to be pitched to in order to hit homeruns. His trend-line for this season has flat-lined over the last 10 games, but that’s not really his fault; he’s been walked nine times in his last five games. There’s no reason for pitchers to throw to Bautista in most circumstances, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up falling short of reaching his homerun total from last year, even though he’s currently on a better pace.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are those same players looked at over the course of the full season:
• Babe Ruth sure finished strong in ’27. Over his last 30 games, he was hands down the hottest hitter of this bunch. If he’s had the same amount of games the rest did, it certainly looks like he’d have ended up somewhere near McGwire’s mark.
• Barry Bonds = insane.
• Bautista had a cold stretch for homeruns right around this time of the season last year before heating up again. That’s a total coincidence, I’m sure, but it means that Bautista can afford to slow down for a bit and still keep ahead of his pace from last year.