One of the great things about Jose Bautista making his return to Toronto today with the Mets is that he won’t be on a mission to prove a point. And even if he is, it’s no big thing, because Blue Jay fans would prefer it if he gave them a little taste of what he used to do for them on a regular basis. Even if it does happen to be for another team.
Most everyone (probably including Bautista) understands that the Blue Jays did the right thing not signing him this off-season. You don’t have a season like he did last year and expect to come back as a starter or even a bench player. No doubt that rough 2017 forced Bautista to make some changes with his approach to the game, otherwise his OBP wouldn’t be the astronomical .418 it is since joining the Mets.
While with Toronto, Bautista transformed himself into an elite power hitter and in so doing developed a reputation as a player open to making difficult changes in his game in an attempt to improve his performance. The improved play we’re currently seeing from Bautista isn’t a whole lot different than what he did eight seasons ago when he broke-out for 54 home runs. Obviously he’s much older now and can’t produce on par with what he did in 2010, but despite his age, he continues to show a knack for being able to make the necessary adjustments in order to remain in Major League Baseball.
This past January there was news that Bautista’s poor play last year might have been attributed to his degrading eyesight. A lot of people simply chalked this up to an aging player attempting to drum-up interest on the free agent market. But looking at Bautista’s numbers with New York, there’s some considerable improvements compared to what he did a year ago. Bautista’s greatest strength (other than his power) was always his ability to draw walks. Between 2010-2016, his prime years with the Blue Jays, he drew roughly the same number of walks (661) as he did strikeouts (679). Last season however, he had over twice the number of strikeouts (170) as he did walks (84), whereas with the Mets he’s walking (24) almost as often as he’s striking out (31). In addition, Bautista’s walk rate in 2017 was 12%, whereas with New York it’s a ridiculous 21.8%.
It’s such an easy thing to assume an aging player has lost it when they have a year like Bautista had in 2017. What can’t be forgotten is that one of Bautista’s biggest motivators throughout his career has been to prove people wrong…something he continues to do to this day.