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Jose Bautista and his 50 home runs

Posted by Andy on September 23, 2010

Jose Bautista hit is 50th home run of the season for the Blue Jays today, and I have to say that as a fan, it sure feels good. What I mean is that with offense levels settling back down, 50 HR once again feels a little bit special to me. I can actually remember when it felt like when Cecil Fielder became what seemed like the first guy in forever to hit 50 HR when he did it in 1990.

This season of no-hit and low-hit games, and where a guy hitting 50 HR actually feels a little special, has been a ton of fun for this fan. How about for you?

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 at 9:12 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

51 Responses to “Jose Bautista and his 50 home runs”

  1. I would like to feel excited about the Bautista 50...but it feels fishy like Brady Anderson. Career high of 16 and now 50??? If only he had built up a little to 50 instead of just having one giant, breakout year.

  2. Circle me, George Foster!

    oops... not Posnanski's site...

  3. As a Pirates fan, I think it kind of sucks. Where was this power when he was a Buc?

  4. sam jackson jr Says:

    Norm Cash, Brady Anderson, meet jose bautista. bautista, meet cash and anderson

  5. @1
    Aaron, Blue Jays watcher here.

    Jose had to answer questions in today's post-game media conference with the local media about PED's. He bore the questions patiently.

    Against your point are two arguments. First, his forearms and upper body do not look appreciably different than at the start of the year. Same wiry frame, no Popeye, Anderson, Bonds or McGwire!

    Second, if you have watched highlights of his home runs you will see an absolutely vicious swing.... an all-or-nothing hack that will decapitate a pitcher some day. His (relatively) low BA is evidence.

    Also don't discount the influence of Dwayne Murphy and Cito Gaston.

  6. Congrats to Jose. (By the way, did anyone see Ichiro? Is there any chance he gets to 3000 MLB hits? He'll need 150-160 for 5 years... does he have that many left?) I don't think Prince was on the juice (unless he started when he was like 10), and his 50 didn't surprise me. Ryan Howard's wasn't really a surprise, either. But, frankly, it's cool to have 50 home runs be a surprise... AND feel like it's clean! I love baseball.

  7. @6
    David, two "milestones" in one game, if you count Bautista's 50th. Ichiro's 10th consecutive 200-hit season is incredible. What if he played in a major market this year?

    Jose is only the 26th player in ML history to hit 50. And in a low-offense year...

  8. Good for him
    I hate that we're now in a "everyone is guilty until proven innocent" era, but if he says he took nothing, I believe him. Why should he be treated as a criminal just because others have committed crimes in the past?

  9. I think he is clean. His approach is completely different than what it used to be, thats all. He's had the power he just never used it as well as he had this year. I mean even if he only hits 30 next year it would be accompanied by a .270-.280 average. He is still young, he has a lot left in the tank now that he's being utilized properly

  10. I think baseball a a game would be better if the parks were much harder to homer in. Fields would have deeper gaps like 410ft and center wall usually 440ft. Corners could still be closer like 325-335 ft but they would would be high fences, like the green monster. Center field and gaps could also sometimes have smaller dimensions but with high walls.

    This would reduce home runs, increase triples, increase the possibility for great plays in the outfield, reduce the value of one dimensional home run swingers, and increase the value of running speed, and defense. So many great defensive plays or efforts could be made, but we don't get to see as many Willie Mays type catches in an era when so many balls clear the wall.

    When there's a long drive in the gap, the least exciting outcome is for it to go over the wall. No defense gets played, there's no play on the bases to try and score, everything is dull and boring all of a sudden, just a guy jogging around and everyone else waiting. I'd rather see a guy racing to get a triple while the outfield gets the ball in as fast as they can.

  11. About Ichiro.

    I think he has a good shot at 3000 mlb hits. He's had 10 straight 200+, I would think you have bet on him doing it again next year. He hasn't slowed down much it seems. He also won't become a defensive liability as he gets older like many other aging players so he can stay in a starting job. He also strikes me as a hard working player who enjoys playing the game and is a fan favourite. That's a recipe for a player that will play longer. I would bet on Ichiro to get to 3000 hits barring any major injuries.

  12. @10
    Jimbo, you would have liked the old Polo Grounds!

  13. Did Bautista's hat size increase more than three sizes? If not, who could be suspicious just because he suddenly quadruples his HR output?

  14. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I have to admit that it took me a few years to really appreciate home run hitters after the Maris-Mantle show back in '61; yes, it wasn't something you saw every day, but I figured {like a few pretty well-known people, Rogers Hornsby, for one} that if a piddling .270 hitter could do it, it made the figure just a little less special. Then came 'Roids, and round trippers became even less impressive. I salute Bautista, though; he's just what the sport needs in this post-scandal time.

  15. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    And re:Aaron {Post #1}

    Maris had one big season -- about 39 homers -- in '60 before chasing Ruth, then pretty well crapped out after that. I am just hoping that now that Bautista has hit the peak, he hangs on for a while.

  16. @10
    You would really like the dead ball era, however 95% of fans wouldn't like baseball that way. Besides, it may SEEM like that would lead to a lot of triples and exciting plays but you know what will occur much more frequently? Long fly outs. Far more boring than a home run, which I can't believe anyone finds a HR to be uninteresting, but to each his own, I guess.

  17. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Not sure how to start a post here, so I hope this will be excused; but Suzuki just tied Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons. And in response to Richard {at least sort of}, Ichiro IS as exciting to watch as any slugger around!

  18. Against the notion that Bautista's big year has come entirely out of nowhere:

    -- He's always had *some* power, averaging 22 HRs per 600 AB in the majors before this year. He hit 24 HRs in his last full year in the minors, just under 500 AB.

    -- His slow development may owe something to starting out in a bad organization; missing most of his age 22-23 seasons (after a fine year at 21 in his first full pro season); and being transferred 5 times in 8 months at age 23, yet winding up back with the Bucs.

    -- Toronto's park is yielding lots of HRs this year; Toronto has hit 132 at home, 101 away, and their pitching split is 75-65. Bautista's split is 31-19.

    -- He has apparently changed his approach, hitting far more fly balls this year. His GB/FB ratio this year is 0.44; his previous career average was 0.72, and the AL average is 0.79.

    Here are some other recent power surges:

    -- Through age 26, Nelson Cruz had 15 MLB HRs in 442 AB. Over the last 3 years, he's hit 91 HRs in 1,214 pro AB. He'd had good power coming up in the minors, but not like that.

    -- Carlos Pena blew up at age 29. His HR rate from 29-32 is 50% higher than his 24-28 average.

    -- Greg Vaughn was a late bloomer. From age 24 to 29, he averaged 29 HRs per 162 G (not bad), but from 30-33 he averaged 44 HR per 162 G.

    -- Kirby Puckett hit 4 HRs in his first 2 years, over 1,200 AB. He hit 31 and 28 in his next 2 years.

    Some other park-aided career years:
    -- Davey Johnson hit 43 HRs in his first year in Atlanta, no more than 18 any other year; 26 of the 43 came in the Launching Pad.
    -- Jeff Burroughs hit 41 in *his* first year in Atlanta, no more than 30 any other year; he hit 27 of the 41 at home.
    -- Andre Dawson hit 49 in his first year with the Cubs, no more than 31 otherwise; he had 27 HRs and a 1.041 OPS at home, 22 and .768 away.

    Bautista's season is obviously a big surprise, even to those who noticed that he hit 6 HRs in his last 8 games of 2009. But when you add up all the understandable factors -- new approach + home-park advantage + team-wide power surge + late development + career year (?) -- it can perhaps be comprehended, without resorting to P.E.D. suspicions.

  19. @10
    Jimbo, I'm with you, in general -- I like to see the ball in play. I don't necessarily want to see a sharp drop in HRs, given that we're already well below the peak years of the steroid era. But the number of strikeouts in today's game makes it less fun for me to watch. The K rate is higher now than it has ever been -- it's even 15% above the 1968 rate.

    In 1980, 14.0% of all AB were strikeouts. In 1990, it was 16.7%. In 2000, 18.7%. This year, it's 20.7%. That's an increase of almost 50 percent in 30 years.

    The 2010 HR rate is 30% higher than it was in 1980, but runs per game are just 3% higher; the MLB batting average is actually 7 points lower in 2010, .258 to .265, partly because of all the strikeouts. Stolen base attempts per game are down 28% compared to 1980; this year will likely see just 1 player with 50+ steals, compared to 9 in 1980.

    I don't pine for the dead-ball era, by any means. I still love baseball. But I really loved the way the game was played in 1980. Especially the fact that Goose Gossage and Dan Quisenberry led the majors with just 33 saves, but averaged 113 IP, nearly twice the workload of today's closers.

  20. Where did I say Ichiro isn't exciting?

    COMPLETELY OFF TOPIC

    while checking park factors, I happened to glance at Roy Halladay on the Toronto 2009 page. Cool, he had a 156 ERA+ *click on his page* and it's listed as 160 ERA+ on his player page. What's up with that?

    Also, for the people feeling nostalgic about a "better" time when players didn't strike out so much? Was it the weak pop outs you liked more or what? Players aren't getting on base LESS often now than they were 30 years ago, that's for sure. And sorry, I don't buy the logic of productive outs being more common. 1/3 of the time there are 2 outs anyway and quite often there aren't any runners on base, so it doesn't make any difference how you get out.

  21. I agree with Andy it is cool to see this guy hit 50 HR this year.

    On a side note, is there going to be an Ichiro Suzuki appreciation post on his 10th consecutive 200 hit season (hes never had a season without 200) and maybe a debate on whether hes the greatest hitter of all time?

  22. Pop outs are pop outs. Moving fences back wouldn't affect the number of balls hit to the infield...

    I personally would like to see deeper outfields in the gaps and/or towards center field to increase triples and inside the park home runs (far more exciting than traditional "hit it and jog" type homers). I think increases in walks and in strikeouts does make it a lot harder for the casual fan to watch baseball. Those of us who watch a ton of games and understand the way players approach at bats will always be fascinated to watch a long battle between a pitcher and a hitter, regardless of how it ends. But seriously, how many 7 and 8 year old kids have the patience for that? If all I grew up seeing was a bunch of walks, I don't know if I'd be as much of a baseball fan today...

  23. Who is only seeing a bunch of walks? That's hyperbole.

    And my pop out comment was in relation to the strikeout comment, not the distance of the fences.

    Besides, ask Mets fans how "exciting" having a huge stadium is.

  24. Suzuki's going to end this year averaging 224 hits per, which means he'll need 760 hits. Two more 200 hit years, which might be possible, and he'll "only" need 360 more starting at age 39. Of course, if he gets 220 next year he might even do it in 4 years instead of 5. However many, he's definitely going to get there.

  25. Douglas Heeren Says:

    Find some video of Jose Bautista from last year and compare it to this year. He is opening his hips alot sooner and "flicking" the wrists to bring the bat through faster. His technique is geared to generate force now.

  26. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s in what I consider to be the Golden Age of baseball. This was the era the classic multipurpose stadium, often with huge expanses of foul territory. I don't have the figures, but it seems like there were a lot more foul outs in those days.
    And there is nothing more exciting than seeing the catcher fling his mask and settle under one.
    In a lot of parts of the country, you weren't inundated with whole bunch ball games on TV. Once a week on NBC made it special: An afternoon listening with Curt Gowdy, who seemed most interested in which fellows liked to hunt and fish.
    Today, there are just too many games on TV. Heck, I can get all the games on the computer. Sometimes I'm watching one on TV and four on the computer. How are you supposed to focus?
    If you did get out the park back in the day, well you had some elbow room. Average National League attendance in 1968 was under 15,000. Our local nine drew, out of contention since May, drew 30,000 fans twice in the past three nights. When I was growing up a team like that would be playing in front of 8,000 fans on a week night. We just had higher standards . . . for everything.
    Take perfect games. There was one in 1968 and they we didn't have another for like 13 years. Now we had what two -- should have been three -- in one season? Thank God Jim Joyce blew that call. Perfection was becoming cheapened.
    I became a fan right after the homer had been cheapened and it was ruining the game, so the strike zone was enlarged. Then the pitching got so good it was ruining the game and they had to lower the mound and shrink the strike zone. In the 1970s, they brought in the DH and bunch a stadiums got artificial turf and it was ruining the game.
    Then you got a bunch of fast guys who ran a lot, and it was cheapening the stolen base and ruining the game. Then we a bunch of over-muscled sluggers and the umps stopped calling strikes above the waist and we had so much offense that it was ruining the game.
    So I have now followed the game long enough that I have seen too much good hitting and too much good pitching.
    There has only been one constant: Fans who complain how baseball's not as good as it used to be.

  27. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Ichiro is great, has a good chance of getting to 3000, and will almost certainly make the hall (based on rep and japanese career, and 55 WAR in 10 years, he'd be a favorite for election even if his career ended tomorrow).

    But no way, no how, is he even close to the best hitter of all time. He's in the conversation for those of a certain style (low-power contact garbage hitters), but even there tony gwynn has him beat on all three of BA/OBP/OPS+, and OPS+ by a fair bit. plus Ichiro is just getting to the end of his prime. Yes, he'll probaby get 200 hits for a couple more years, but his numbers will probably go down some, they are already starting to.

    No way he's even in the conversation with the real greatest hitters, guys with high average *and* walks *and* power.

  28. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Nobody ever wanted to talk about changed technique re Bonds or McGwire. It was just those magical steroids.

  29. The last 50 HR year...2007. It's only been 3 years, Andy. I'm excited to have good pitching back. Baseball games with football scores never appealed much to me.

  30. "On a side note, is there going to be an Ichiro Suzuki appreciation post on his 10th consecutive 200 hit season (hes never had a season without 200) and maybe a debate on whether hes the greatest hitter of all time?"

    Seriously? I guess you have a point Ted Williams had no 200 hit seasons

  31. #25

    2008: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=2628995
    2010: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10438965

    Both videos have a slow motion look at the swing around 0:33 or so where you can really see the differences. He's loading up sooner with that high leg kick and really exploding into the ball with his hips this year. He's using his legs more and putting everything he has into his swing this year. He probably won't hit 50 again, but I wouldn't be surprised if he continues being a 35ish HR guy for several more years.

  32. Bautista is not only hitting for more power but for a better average. He is batting .265, 12 points better than his career high. He likely will finish with a career high in strikeouts, but not by much and he will have more at-bats than in any previous season.

  33. Williams never had a 200 hit season because he walked a zillion times a year. His top official AB total ever...566. You'd have to hit .353 or better with his stats to ever get 200 hits. He did hit better than that 5 times, incidentally, and had 185 hits or better 6 times. That, as well as having served in the military twice, is also why he never made it to 3000 hits. He refused to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone.

  34. "Williams never had a 200 hit season because he walked a zillion times a year. His top official AB total ever...566. You'd have to hit .353 or better with his stats to ever get 200 hits. He did hit better than that 5 times, incidentally, and had 185 hits or better 6 times. That, as well as having served in the military twice, is also why he never made it to 3000 hits. He refused to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone."

    Which was my point. Total hits is so meaningless as to be almost a negative. Al Oliver had more total hits than Williams in fewer plate appearances. If you treat a single as being equal to an extra base hit and a walk as being the same as out you get ludicrious results like that.

  35. @25 @27
    Thanks for the links, Wilson. Even a casual Jays-watcher would tell you that the ball is screaming off Bautista's bat this year. And he does have a lot of flyouts. Seems like even his singles are laser beams, not broken-bat bloops and checked-swing dribblers.

    As someone in the local market, I honestly don't believe he is on the juice.

    Jose has missed two more home runs in the Rogers Centre alone this year by a less than a foot total. Both were line drives off the top of the fence. But I guess that is true of any other player as well.

    Is interesting to speculate how many he will hit this year what with Baltimore and then New York coming into town. Bautista loves Yankees' pitching.

    Is George Foster's single-season number going to be passed?

  36. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #10/bigger outfields? - NOT GONNA HAPPEN

    Sorry, it's not going to happen for a couple of decades (at least). MLB has just experienced an explosive twenty-year period of building new stadiums, with only a couple teams left currently looking for new parks to be built, and I don't see any any new parks being proposed/built soon. With the economy still down, politicians aren't inclined to give the large taxpayer subsidies that have been the norm.

    I suppose teams could push the fences back by rebuilding them, but in many stadiums they would also lose quite a few seats doing this, so why would they do that??

    I like the asymmetrical parks also, but MLB has slowly returned to levels of run scoring that are historical "normal", so I don't see the need for any radical changes.

  37. I guess I'm one of those "[f]ans who complain how baseball's not as good as it used to be" (Tom @26). But I don't see why that makes my perspective less worthy than that of someone who prefers today's style of play. At least I try to back up my opinions with evidence of the changes.

    Richard @20 asked, "Was it the weak pop outs you liked more or what?" Well, if you mean, "Would you rather see a weak pop out than a strikeout?", I say: Yes, I surely would. On the other hand, if you were implying that weak pop outs were more common in 1980 than in 2010, as a percentage of balls in play, then I would ask you for some evidence of that. I checked it as best I could: In 1988 (the first year such stats are available on B-R), the GB/FB ratio was 0.80 -- exactly the same as it is today.

    Richard added, "Players aren't getting on base LESS often now than they were 30 years ago, that's for sure." True, but misleading; the OBP was .326 in both 1980 and 2010. The difference is in the proportion of walks and hits: 3.24 hits per unintentional walk in 1980, 2.93 today. Which do you more enjoy watching -- a walk, or a hit?

    As for the Mets' "huge new stadium" ... I don't know if facts will ever impact the general perception of this park, but I keep trying. In both seasons, Mets hitters have actually done BETTER AT HOME, across the board -- BA (an average of +12 points), OBP, SLG (+26 pts), R/G, even HR%. It is true that the Mets' opponents have done poorly there, leading to the multi-year park factor of 96/97; but that PF is about the same as at least half a dozen other current parks.

    Finally, "productive outs" is a straw man, Richard; you're the only one who mentioned it.

  38. @16

    There wouldn't be so many long fly outs, because players would stop hitting fly balls. Hitters would go up and hit line drives, not fly balls.

    I think high fly balls should be outs, unless you absolutely crush them.

  39. In my theory, even if every baseball stadium made their outfield walls 3x higher, I think the game would be more exciting. More extra base hits (defense, fielding, throwing, and running and sliding/diving) and less home runs (ball disappears, guy jogs, everyone waits).

  40. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "It was just those magical steroids."

    I want to know which steroid I'm supposed to take that will make me a MLB home-run hitter, instead of a church league slow-pitch mainstay.

  41. @40
    Sorry, Michael, your point is....?

    Steroids don't make you a better hitter because of hand-to-eye coordination?
    HGH doesn't increase muscle mass and therefore power?
    PED's don't keep a baseball player in the lineup more because of faster recoveries from minor injuries?

  42. Richard @20 asked, "Was it the weak pop outs you liked more or what?" Well, if you mean, "Would you rather see a weak pop out than a strikeout?", I say: Yes, I surely would.
    ---------------

    Then there is zero point in debating you since both outcomes are worthless.

  43. This year home runs as a percentage of plate appearances (excluding IBB) in the ML is 4339/173355 = 2.50%, including the Jays' numbers.

    Jose Bautista's home run rate as a percentage of plate appearances, again excluding IBB, this year is 50/638 = 7.84%. He is hitting home runs at 3.14 times the league average.

    In 2001, Barry Bonds HR % was 73/629 = 11.6%. The comparable ML average that year was
    5458/185577 = 2.94%. Bonds hit HR at 3.95 times the league average.

    In 1998 the ML HR % was 5064/187190 = 2.71%. Mark McGwire's rate was 70/653 = 10.7%, also 3.95 times the league average. Sosa's rate was 66/708 = 9.32%, 3.44 times the league average.

    Just wanted to put Jose's performance in some kind of perspective. Measured against the two best home run seasons in baseball history, he is hitting dingers at only 79.5% the rate of Bonds and McGwire in their best years.

    Given that there are no park adjustments here, how do we compare Bond's 2001 and McGwire's 1998 seasons to the one Bautista is having. Did steroids aid former stars by 20%?

  44. FWIW, I knew he was leading the league and was up there, but when I saw the title of this post, I said, "REALLY!?!?!" And that's kind of cool. But kind of cool. As a 27-year-old, 50 has always been pretty attainable as long as I've really know what's going on. I remember the first time I looked back and saw that Strawberry won a HR title with 37 or something once and was like, "That was stupid."

  45. @ 38
    I'm pretty sure most hitters TRY to hit line drives. The highest average on a ball in play is from a line drive. The fences being further away wouldn't suddenly give hitters the ability to do one of the hardest things in baseball.

    Also, Jose hit 51 and 52 tonight. Just amazing.

    I'm still surprised by your description of a HR being boring. That's just ludicrous. I've NEVER seen a home crowd react to a HR by a member of its team in the way you describe. It's always excitement and a lot of cheering.

    In your baseball world, we should heavily reward fast guys, but not strong guys?

  46. @45

    I of course would not say the home run is boring. The hit is exciting, the ball travelling through the air is exciting...

    But when I see a ball smoked into the gap, and I see the outfielders in pursuit, I always want to see that ball bounce off the wall, the outfielders getting it in as fast as possible, while the runner is either held at 2nd by good defense, or perhaps attempts to stretch out a triple. That's about the most exciting play in baseball.

    But when that ball disappears over the fence, there will be no defense, no throws, no running, no diving, none of some of the great things baseball has to offer. I feel the same way about ground-rule-doubles. When a ball bounces over the fence, it sucks. No running, no defense, no throwing, no diving, no unpredictable outcome.

    Baseball players today are much stronger than they ever were in the past. Balls (as I heard at least) are tighter. Bats are probably better too. If anything, the fields should've gotten bigger, but instead, they got smaller.

  47. Hank Aaron thought the triple was the most exciting play in baseball. Good enough for me.

  48. Personally, I'd love to see LeBron on a longer court and let him run wild...oh wait, they have standardized dimensions. Scratch that.

    Boggles my mind that a sport so ingrained in statistics and measuring/comparing players through the decades would allow vastly different dimensions to their playing fields.

  49. I think the varying dimensions is a beautiful thing in baseball. All those cookie cutter 330/370/400/370/330 stadiums with 9 foot high wall all the way round were terrible. I wish they varied more than they do.

  50. Hank Aaron was wrong. It's the inside the park HR :)

  51. Another thing we would see more of in bigger stadiums.