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Friday, August 12, 2011

Yahoo.com: How Jose Bautista Went From Baseball Vagabond To The Game’s Best Slugger

In his free time, Bautista reads books on exceptionality. “I’m trying to understand why mediocre people become good at what they do,” he says, “and why good people become the best.” So he mixes other players’ post-career musings on success with real mental protein. He’s gotten into Malcolm Gladwell. He recently finished “Outliers.”

The Baltimore Orioles selected him as a Rule 5 pick in December 2003 and replaced him in late May with 27-year-old Jose Leon, who had 66 at-bats that year and never played in the major leagues again. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays held onto Bautista for three weeks before discarding him for Joey Gathright, who would go on to have the worst slugging percentage of any player with at least 1,000 at-bats in the 2000s. The Kansas City Royals purchased Bautista for $50,000, stuck him on the bench as journeyman Desi Relaford garnered full-time at-bats and a month later traded him to the New York Mets for Justin Huber, who bombed out after 175 at-bats. The Mets owned Bautista’s rights for mere minutes, spinning him back to Pittsburgh in a deal for Kris Benson.

“We weren’t sure about Bautista’s bat,” says Jim Beattie, then the Orioles’ co-general manager.

They weren’t the only ones. The Devil Rays’ scouting director, Cam Bonifay, was the GM in Pittsburgh when the Pirates drafted and signed Bautista. His time with Tampa Bay left quite the impression. “I can’t remember that far back,” Bonifay says. The Rays’ GM at the time, Chuck LaMar, couldn’t recall any specifics, either. “If we had him,” LaMar says, “I guess we’re part of that success story.”

Tripon Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:51 AM | 79 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, history, international, minor leagues, prospect reports, scouting

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   1. Run Joe Run Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:00 PM (#3898564)
I can remember him swinging at bad pitches just to set up pitchers," says Dave Clark, the Lynchburg manager and now the Houston Astros' third-base coach. "You don't see that from a guy in A ball


That seems very odd - swinging at bad pitches to set up a pitcher?
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:30 PM (#3898570)
That seems very odd - swinging at bad pitches to set up a pitcher?


Supposedly Edgar Renteria did that in the world series where he got the game winning hit. Basically the theory is that you swing badly to make it look like you were completely flumoxed, and then you wait on the same pitch.
   3. Jeff R., P***y Mainlander Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:34 PM (#3898572)
That seems very odd - swinging at bad pitches to set up a pitcher?


Is this the reverse of the "Greg Maddux gives up spring training homer to Bagwell just to set him up five months later?"

Anyway, it sounds like there's a hell of a book waiting to be written when Bautista leaves baseball.
   4. formerly dp Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:48 PM (#3898575)
So wait, are we not blaming steroids or sign-stealing any more? Can everyone just sit back and enjoy the ride now?
   5. Run Joe Run Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM (#3898576)
Well if he did have that extraordinary skill in A ball, he sure didn't put it to much use in that season. My guess is he swung at bad picthes for the same reason most players do - they are fooled. Clearly, Bautista got passed that.
   6. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 12, 2011 at 01:33 PM (#3898585)
What an unusual story - Bautista is keeping his head straight by reading Malcolm Gladwell?

I would say you could make an interesting movie out of his well-traveled career, but one piece of the story would normally be how he was always sort of this good - but nobody saw it, and nobody gave him a long enough trial for him to show his skills. However, I don't think this is true.

At ages 25,26, and 27, the Pirates gave him plenty of chances to show his skills, and he showed an OPS+ of 94, 96, and 91 in those 2+ seasons. In fact, in his age 28 season with Toronto, Bautista had another very similar season. Check out his 2006 through 2009 seasons - they are remarkably similar seasons. His walk rate went up in 2009, but that's the only difference. What did he figure out between 2009 and 2010? Did his stance change? Because it didn't happen while he was bouncing around these other teams...
   7. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 01:39 PM (#3898588)
I wonder if he's gotten his 10,000 hours of hitting in.
   8. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#3898592)
What did he figure out between 2009 and 2010? Did his stance change?

Yes. In August/September of 2009, the Jays changed his stance and timing mechanism. It seems to have worked.
   9. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:10 PM (#3898605)
Wheaties
   10. Paul D(uda) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#3898606)
I really liked this article.
   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:40 PM (#3898625)
So wait, are we not blaming steroids or sign-stealing any more? Can everyone just sit back and enjoy the ride now?

Can we stop pretending that there is only one sportswriter in the world who keeps mysteriously changing his mind about things?
   12. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:50 PM (#3898631)
#7 = quality comment
   13. formerly dp Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:54 PM (#3898634)
Wheaties

Sprinkled with Mutant Growth Hormone? Undetectable cybernetic implants so he can hear The Man in White whispering pitches in his ear?

I didn't remember the Mets ever having him....ah, Justin Huber, another prospect I was spectacularly wrong about.
   14. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3898638)
I didn't remember the Mets ever having him

Given that he was only part of the organization for about 20 minutes, that's understandable.
   15. formerly dp Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:19 PM (#3898647)
Given that he was only part of the organization for about 20 minutes, that's understandable.

I remember the genius that was the Benson trade pretty clearly though, and didn't remember Bautista being part of it.
   16. Downtown Bookie Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3898650)
In August/September of 2009, the Jays changed his stance and timing mechanism. It seems to have worked.


Hitting coaches are the new market inefficiency.

DB
   17. DanG Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:33 PM (#3898658)
In August/September of 2009, the Jays changed his stance and timing mechanism.
Thru September 4, 2009 Bautista was hitting .216/.345/.301; 3 HR in 289 PA. In the last month of the 2009 season he hit .280/.360/.660; 10 HR in 115 PA. The rest is history.
   18. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:44 PM (#3898667)
Thru September 4, 2009 Bautista was hitting .216/.345/.301; 3 HR in 289 PA. In the last month of the 2009 season he hit .280/.360/.660; 10 HR in 115 PA. The rest is history.


I don't think any one thing explains Bautista (except steroids). Plenty of hitters have changed their stances before. Nobody has ever had this kind of turnaround. Have the Jays been successful doing this with others?

I'd start by asking Bautista what he thinks changed for him.
   19. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:03 PM (#3898688)
Cal Ripken Jr was a man of 1000 stances who really changed his approach after 1990 leading to his 1991 MVP season. Pitchers adjusted.

I have seen many older hitters just focus on a zone. It works for a season or so and then pitchers catch up. The most recent example is Scott Rolen who sat on stuff middle in for the first half of 2010. Now the fall off is most likely injury but it was very clear last season that Rolen was patiently waiting on that zone. Gary Matthews had his last good season with the Cubs by doing the same season. Throw him something on the middle half of the plate and Gary crushed it somewhere. He wouldn't swing at something away until there were two strikes.
   20.  Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:07 PM (#3898693)
I don't think any one thing explains Bautista


Exactly. Can't we just appreciate things the way they are?
   21. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:08 PM (#3898694)
I'd start by asking Bautista what he thinks changed for him.

If I recall correctly he pretty much says the same thing that #17 implies. A change in approach with the help of Gaston and Murphy in late 09.
   22. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3898700)
Youtube video in which Bautista discusses his swing change.

He says that coaches had been telling him to start his swing earlier for many years, but he never really understood how to do it until the Blue Jays team sat down with him. It also explodes the myth of the August/September 2009 immediate switch. It says he had been working on it in the batting cage for a whole year, and it took that long before he was able to implement it in games.
   23.  Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:17 PM (#3898701)
I have seen many older hitters just focus on a zone. It works for a season or so and then pitchers catch up. The most recent example is Scott Rolen who sat on stuff middle in for the first half of 2010. Now the fall off is most likely injury but it was very clear last season that Rolen was patiently waiting on that zone. Gary Matthews had his last good season with the Cubs by doing the same season. Throw him something on the middle half of the plate and Gary crushed it somewhere. He wouldn't swing at something away until there were two strikes.


Indeedn, this seems to be Bautista's approach. What he has going for him though is that he's always had a great eye, even in his journeyman years, and he has no problem taking pitches he doesn't like even if they're close. Then he gets a pitch to his liking and crushes it over the left field wall :)

I've always been a fan of Bautista's; I remember thinking how he was the forgotten guy of the Kazmir deals, and being happy that the Jays kept him after 2009 (I wanted him to platoon with Snider, LOL.) He's a lot of fun to watch, and seems like a really fun and smart guy as well. I'm just happy for his success and really couldn't care less "why" it happened (as if it's just one thing....)

I will say that he's been pretty lousy this month though. I don't think 60HR is going to happen.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:21 PM (#3898703)
Here's another video where he addresses it specifically.

In this one he says that the first time "he applied those changes in a game" was a "day game against the Twins" in which he hit a homerun. Must have been September 7 or September 10, 2008.
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:27 PM (#3898709)
Changing a swing is a big deal. The Red Sox had a fine hitting catcher named Rich Gedman who overhauled his swing working with Walt Hriniak, a Charley Lau guy.

Gedman's bat vanished.

Now, Rich had a tough 1986 Series being associated with the debacle in Game 6 and also had injuries.

But most folks believe that Walt forced an approach on Gedman that ruined him
   26. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:36 PM (#3898712)
I've always thought of hitting theories or ideologies like historical theories or ideologies.

They can work great when applied to the right hitter/event/society. But no one theory makes sense in all situations.

I certainly don't know the first thing about teaching someone how to hit, but it seems to me the thing to do is start with the hitter, not with the theory.
   27. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:40 PM (#3898714)
#20 seems to imply that if you question why Bautista seems to have "flipped a switch", that you're playing the PED card. I'm not saying that, and I'm not sure that even if started using PEDs on August 25, 2009 or something, that he would magically hit like 1967 Yaz.

It's pretty clear to me (and evidence is provided in this thread via video clips) that he changed something physically, like his approach to hitting, his stance and/or swing, use of technology, etc.

Somebody joked that this is a new market inefficiency - but I am interested in this because it may indeed be something everybody should be studying. Just to pick on somebody about whom we have all discussed, Wily Mo Pena has unmatched physical gifts - and has shown flashes of success. Would a guy like that have improved dramatically going through a similar process as Bautista? What can we learn?
   28. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:41 PM (#3898715)
I don't think any one thing explains Bautista


Exactly. Can't we just appreciate things the way they are?

I said earlier in the year that Bautista's transformation is one of the most fascinating baseball stories in my lifetime, in part due to the fact that we'll never know for certain just how he turned himself from a guy likely running out of chances to the league's best hitter, seemingly overnight.
   29. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3898718)
Changing a swing is a big deal. The Red Sox had a fine hitting catcher named Rich Gedman who overhauled his swing working with Walt Hriniak, a Charley Lau guy.

Gedman's bat vanished.

Now, Rich had a tough 1986 Series being associated with the debacle in Game 6 and also had injuries.

But most folks believe that Walt forced an approach on Gedman that ruined him



If I'm remembering correctly (and I was a pretty closer follower of the Sox at the time), you've got the timeline wrong here. All of Gedman's success came after working with Hriniak. During his best years, his swing, including letting go with the top hand, was class Lau style. The big debate was over whether it was Hriniak's approach was ALSO responsible for Gedman's falloff. I don't recall ever seeing any strong evidence in favor of this, as guys like Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs, and George Brett never seemed to have the same problem.

Sidenote: Gedman's son, Matt Gedman, got drafted by the Red Sox in the 45th round this year. Haven't seen his swing yet. :)

Edit: Didn't mean to sound so definitive. I may be remembering wrong--I was a young lad at the time.
   30. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:50 PM (#3898719)
#27, agreed.

I don't see how "explaining" (even if we'll never know 100%, but the search for explanations) belittles Bautista's accomplishments, or makes anyone appreciate what he's done any less. Is a literary explanation or analysis of "Ulysses" detrimental to an appreciation of it? I usually find the exact opposite.

EDIT: This may just be a philosophical difference. I know I've had the experience after watching a film or reading a book, of discussing it with a friend (who also really enjoyed the book or film), and them getting really frustrated with me trying to piece together why I liked it so much. Generally explanations heighten my enjoyment of phenomenon, but I guess that's not how everyone views things.
   31. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3898720)
This article confirms my memory (somewhat), and hey, Gedman's a hitting coach in the Sox system now. He's at Lowell, where his son just started playing... and stopped hitting. :0
   32. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM (#3898722)
I don't think 60HR is going to happen.

Granderson's been on fire. He has an outside shot. ;)

I certainly don't know the first thing about teaching someone how to hit...

The first thing is easy -- see ball, hit ball. Gets a little tougher after that.
   33. Russ Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:07 PM (#3898725)

At ages 25,26, and 27, the Pirates gave him plenty of chances to show his skills, and he showed an OPS+ of 94, 96, and 91 in those 2+ seasons. In fact, in his age 28 season with Toronto, Bautista had another very similar season. Check out his 2006 through 2009 seasons - they are remarkably similar seasons. His walk rate went up in 2009, but that's the only difference. What did he figure out between 2009 and 2010? Did his stance change? Because it didn't happen while he was bouncing around these other teams...


Again, this is simply not true. "Plenty of chances" is quite an exaggeration, given how much they jerked Bautista around in the previous 3 years and how much they jerked his position around. They gave him 1400 PA, during which time he played RF, 3B, LF, CF, and 2B. I know people like to pretend that there is no mental aspect to the game, but if you take a guy and don't give him a chance to develop and then make him play 5 positions in a little over 2 seasons yanking him in and out of the lineup (not to mention batting him all over the batting order), then that is going to retard his development.
   34. AROM Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:36 PM (#3898739)
Now, Rich had a tough 1986 Series being associated with the debacle in Game 6 and also had injuries.

But most folks believe that Walt forced an approach on Gedman that ruined him


Don't forget Gedman being caught up in MLB's collusion situation. He didn't resign with the Red Sox by the offseason deadline, and when no team offered a contract he went back to the Red Sox. But he wasn't eligible to return to them until May 1st. Now, missing spring training and starting the season cold didn't hurt Tim Raines any, but people react to situations differently and this might have contributed to screwing Gedman up.

My personal theory though, is that that soft curveball he took in the shoulder from Gary Lucas actually hurt (at least karmically). He should have just bailed out of the way, dug back in and popped up, leaving David F. Henderson in the on deck circle where he belonged, and gone on to finish a decent career.
   35. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:39 PM (#3898740)
As a Sox fan, I might be willing to trade in the Henderson heroics to avoid the World Series debacle and all that has followed.
   36. DFA Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3898744)
Thanks for posting those videos Preservedfish.
   37. Downtown Bookie Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:46 PM (#3898745)
Somebody joked that this is a new market inefficiency - but I am interested in this because it may indeed be something everybody should be studying.


While it was said with a smile, I really wasn't joking when I said that, "Hitting coaches are the new market inefficiency." The fact is that coaches and minor league instructors have a tremendous impact on how well (or how poorly) the organization's talents develop; yet the best of them can be gotten relatively cheap (most for far less than the cost of a utility player).

This thread covers the story of Jose Bautista. As another example, Ron Darling tells the story in his book The Complete Game (of which, I must confess, I've so far only read excerpts) of how the Texas Rangers, after drafting him out of college, basically changed his whole style of pitching. It wasn't until after he was traded to the Mets and worked with Davey Johnson that Darling went back to pitching as he had at Yale, and was back on track towards having a successful MLB career.

So if a team on a shoestring budget wants to buy wins on the cheap, they would do well to hire those who are the best at teaching their players how to get the most from their abilities. At least, in my humble opinion.

DB
   38. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:52 PM (#3898747)
Speaking of books and Jose Bautista. This sounds like it applies.

"Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there any system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go. Whoever would seek out his history through what unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks must stand at last darkened and dumb at the shore of a void without terminus or origin."
   39. formerly dp Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:58 PM (#3898748)
So if a team on a shoestring budget wants to buy wins on the cheap, they would do well to hire those who are the best at teaching their players how to get the most from their abilities.

Don't we assume teams are doing that though? I would think all teams employ coaches they think will make their players better. Sometimes finding the right fit might only happen by accident-- a coach whose style and advice works well with one pitcher might not work as well with another.
   40. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3898749)
I said earlier in the year that Bonds's transformation is one of the most fascinating baseball stories in my lifetime, in part due to the fact that we'll never know for certain just how he turned himself from a guy likely running out of chances to the league's best hitter, seemingly overnight.
FTFY
   41. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:13 PM (#3898756)
Sidenote: Gedman's son, Matt Gedman, got drafted by the Red Sox in the 45th round this year. Haven't seen his swing yet. :)

Completely random piece of trivia - Matt and his dad were born on the same day, 29 years apart. I only noticed this because I happen to share the same birthday.
   42. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:16 PM (#3898757)
I said earlier in the year that Bonds's transformation is one of the most fascinating baseball stories in my lifetime, in part due to the fact that we'll never know for certain just how he turned himself from a guy likely running out of chances to the league's best hitter, seemingly overnight.


I missed the point in Bonds' career where he was just about out running out of chances to demonstrate he could make it in MLB, but I wasn't as unhealthily obsessed with him as you were so I can see how those 30 seconds might have eluded me. But thanks for the heads up Chris.
   43. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3898762)
Again, this is simply not true. "Plenty of chances" is quite an exaggeration, given how much they jerked Bautista around in the previous 3 years and how much they jerked his position around. They gave him 1400 PA, during which time he played RF, 3B, LF, CF, and 2B. I know people like to pretend that there is no mental aspect to the game, but if you take a guy and don't give him a chance to develop and then make him play 5 positions in a little over 2 seasons yanking him in and out of the lineup (not to mention batting him all over the batting order), then that is going to retard his development.

Also there must have been dozens of times that Pirates coaches confused him with Jose Castillo. That can't be good for the self-esteem.
   44. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:29 PM (#3898766)
unraveling of loins and ledgerbooks

Damn that's good. What a writer.
   45. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:32 PM (#3898770)
More Cormac, also applicable here:


Your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there
is no mystery.
   46. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 12, 2011 at 07:03 PM (#3898783)
But thanks for the heads up Chris.
you are welcome.
   47. base ball chick Posted: August 12, 2011 at 07:34 PM (#3898791)
Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM (#3898709)

Changing a swing is a big deal. The Red Sox had a fine hitting catcher named Rich Gedman who overhauled his swing working with Walt Hriniak, a Charley Lau guy.


- got a question
whyWHY if you have a fine hitting ballplayer, WHY would you even WANT to change his swing? i mean if it is working for him???


Russ Posted: August 12, 2011 at 01:07 PM (#3898725)

Again, this is simply not true. "Plenty of chances" is quite an exaggeration, given how much they jerked Bautista around in the previous 3 years and how much they jerked his position around. They gave him 1400 PA, during which time he played RF, 3B, LF, CF, and 2B. I know people like to pretend that there is no mental aspect to the game, but if you take a guy and don't give him a chance to develop and then make him play 5 positions in a little over 2 seasons yanking him in and out of the lineup (not to mention batting him all over the batting order), then that is going to retard his development.


really REALLY well said
this is the story of chris burke - that plus letting him rot in the minor leagues WAAAAYYYY too long

and it is really true about the mental aspect/confidence part of the game. i've seen it over and over - hitters who the manager OBVIOUSLY dislikes. pitchers who have lost something and are nervous, afraid that just one bad pitch and that is the end

and as for me, well, i think that sometimes a ballplayer learns later than The Accepted Proper Age how to hit. joey bats ain't the first and he won't be the last. joey is proof that people are addicted to stereotyping/profiling - get all up Set if people do things that aren't The Way That Things Go.
so poor ol joey gots to be using Secret Undetectable Drugs prolly from The Evull Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds that give him Super Human Strength or maybe he got bit by a radioactive spider or he got telescope vision and watches some guy 400+ feet away standing up and down. maybe he got mind control power and gets pitchers to throw him what he wants where he wants like batting practice

no, no - i know i KNOW!!! he got The Magic Hammer and swung it until he was thor!!!
   48. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:08 PM (#3898799)
Changing a swing is a big deal. The Red Sox had a fine hitting catcher named Rich Gedman who overhauled his swing working with Walt Hriniak, a Charley Lau guy.

- got a question
whyWHY if you have a fine hitting ballplayer, WHY would you even WANT to change his swing? i mean if it is working for him???



First, read #29. Second, guys do this all the time. Harvey noted Ripken was a big stance changer, and certainly a swing changer. Yaz was too. I remember several years ago when people were up in arms that Jaramillo had the temerity to tinker with ARod's swing. But ARod was on board and he was great afterward. It's a game of constant adjustments and the swing is no exception.
   49. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:09 PM (#3898800)
The Man in White Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:43 AM (#3898592)

What did he figure out between 2009 and 2010? Did his stance change?

Yes. In August/September of 2009, the Jays changed his stance and timing mechanism. It seems to have worked.

Hmm.
   50. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:18 PM (#3898805)
"Plenty of chances" is quite an exaggeration, given how much they jerked Bautista around in the previous 3 years and how much they jerked his position around.


Did you bother to really look at the numbers?

In 2006 they jerked him around a lot. And then, in 2007 Bautista played 142 games, and 126 of them were at third base. In 2008 he played third base exclusively. How much more consistency do you think he deserved?

And then Toronto jerked Bautista around a lot more than the Pirates did - and they continue to do so.

Obviously we can dismiss the idea that Bautista always had this latent ability, and that the Blue Jays smartly unleashed it by just leaving him alone. The evidence suggests the very opposite.
   51. base ball chick Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:18 PM (#3898806)
darren

i said if the swing is WORKING - if you have to adjust, that means it is not working
   52. SandyRiver Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:22 PM (#3898809)
Again, this is simply not true. "Plenty of chances" is quite an exaggeration, given how much they jerked Bautista around in the previous 3 years and how much they jerked his position around. They gave him 1400 PA, during which time he played RF, 3B, LF, CF, and 2B.

This was true for his 1st full year, but the next year he was almost 80% at 3B and was closer to 90% 3B for the Pittsburgh portion of the following year. During his final 1.6 yr with the Pirates the BBRef numbers portray him getting switched around slightly less than in his subsequent years (including 2011) with the Jays. Maybe he matured enough to handle the defensive maze a bit better (along with the swing change.)

Had to check out Gedman, and the numbers (plus Darren's post) make me wonder just when his swing got altered. He had only 3 yr with 100+ games, 1984-86 with over 130 each yr, and was an excellent hitter 84-85, league avg (fine for C) in 86. His 1986 splits have some oddities. He was good in April, poor in May-June, about his season avg July-August, then did his best work Sept 1 on. The really strange thing was his home-road split for 86, .583 OPS home and .887 away. Has anyone else with enough PA to qualify for the BA title ever posted a negative .300 home OPS? (In 1984-85 he had more "normal" better-at-Fenway splits.)

As per AROM's post, must have been 1987 that he had to wait until May 1, and I wonder if he also had some DL time - only 150 or so PA with OPS+ of 39. He never did better than OPS+ 76 after that.
   53. ...and Toronto selects: Troy Tulowitzki Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:25 PM (#3898810)
I said earlier in the year that Bautista's transformation is one of the most fascinating baseball stories in my lifetime, in part due to the fact that we'll never know for certain just how he turned himself from a guy likely running out of chances to the league's best hitter, seemingly overnight.

Ya. We'll never know. Why bother listening to the man himself and what he says with his mouth. There must be some way of finding out, but how?
   54. Ron J Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:30 PM (#3898813)
#27 There's a comment in one of the Abstracts about somebody who had adopted an unorthodox stance with success. Something to the effect that he saw fair fair number of hitters who he thought "should" be successful but who had been forced into a stance than for whatever reason didn't suit them.

I can buy the notion that the orthodox way of doing any given thing may not work at all well for everybody.

Thing is that it's really hard to change your approach (successfully) at the major league level. You can add Gary Pettis to Gedman for instance as examples of guys who tried to make changes forced on them by their organization and ended seriously messed up.
   55. Ron J Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#3898815)
#42 Thing is that the magnitude of the change isn't all that different. They were starting from a different base.
   56. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:36 PM (#3898816)
Yes. In August/September of 2009, the Jays changed his stance and timing mechanism. It seems to have worked.

Are the Jays coaches who did this the highest paid coaches in baseball yet? Because if this story is true then they should be.

Also, I still want to know why they don't do the exact same adjustments for all of their players who are struggling.
   57.  Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:52 PM (#3898823)


Also, I still want to know why they don't do the exact same adjustments for all of their players who are struggling.


Because the exact same adjustments aren't going to work the same way for every player. Snowflakes, etc.

Ya. We'll never know. Why bother listening to the man himself and what he says with his mouth.


I doubt he really knows, exactly, either.
   58. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:53 PM (#3898825)
I missed the point in Bonds' career where he was just about out running out of chances to demonstrate he could make it in MLB, but I wasn't as unhealthily obsessed with him as you were so I can see how those 30 seconds might have eluded me. But thanks for the heads up Chris.


Sorry, SoSH, but whether Bonds was about to wash out of MLB is utterly beside the point. The point is that Bonds made huge and sudden gains that were unexpected and not due to peaking with age. As did Bautista.

You're seizing on an uninteresting aspect of the parallel Chris made while avoiding dealing with the substance.
   59. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:55 PM (#3898829)
As far as other Blue Jay examples, Aaron Hill kind of went crazy a few years ago with HRs, but he'd shown a little power before and whatever he did then doesn't seem to be working anymore. Bautista seems like the only one who's really hitting better than you'd expect this year, although lots of guys hit for serious power last year.
   60. Tripon Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:57 PM (#3898830)
Ya. We'll never know. Why bother listening to the man himself and what he says with his mouth.



I doubt he really knows, exactly, either.


Bautista says this himself. He's trying to figure out what was the change, and can't put his finger on it.
   61. mathesond Posted: August 12, 2011 at 08:57 PM (#3898831)
Also, I still want to know why they don't do the exact same adjustments for all of their players who are struggling

After all, every hitter is exactly alike

Edit: Or what #57 said
   62. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:08 PM (#3898837)
The point is that Bonds made huge and sudden gains that were unexpected and not due to peaking with age. As did Bautista.

I think there is a bigger difference when Bautista goes from a previous high of 99 OPS+ to 164 and 191 (jumps of 65% and 92%), than Bonds going from a high of 205 to 268 (31% jump). While Bonds change may be impressive, Bautista's change is far more amazing.

It would be like Alexi Ramirez suddenly hitting like, well, Jose Bautista next year.
   63. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:23 PM (#3898844)
Sorry, SoSH, but whether Bonds was about to wash out of MLB is utterly beside the point. The point is that Bonds made huge and sudden gains that were unexpected and not due to peaking with age. As did Bautista.

You're seizing on an uninteresting aspect of the parallel Chris made while avoiding dealing with the substance.


When it's my comment he's 'fixing,' I get to seize on whatever the hell aspect I want. (-:

Seriously, that's one of the key aspects of the Bautista story that I find fascinating Ray, what makes the story singularly amazing TO ME (I uppercased that to let you know that we're two different people). Here's a guy who was likely on the verge of running out of chances and, in what appears to be over a 48-hour period in September 2009, figures it all out. I find it to be one of the most interesting stories in my years of watching baseball. I don't know if it's ever happened before, or is likely to happen again. And I can appreciate it separately from how I appreciate Barry Bonds' transformation from all-time great to all-time greatest.

If you and Chris have to run things through your BB Filter in order to appreciate something, more's the pity.

Ya. We'll never know. Why bother listening to the man himself and what he says with his mouth. There must be some way of finding out, but how?


I have no doubt the swing change is probably the primary reason. It's just the improvement was so dramatic and so swift that it boggles my mind that we could point to a single thing and say, "That's it."
   64. mex4173 Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:32 PM (#3898849)

As far as other Blue Jay examples, Aaron Hill kind of went crazy a few years ago with HRs, but he'd shown a little power before and whatever he did then doesn't seem to be working anymore. Bautista seems like the only one who's really hitting better than you'd expect this year, although lots of guys hit for serious power last year.


He isn't Bautista, but I don't think too many people were expecting Escobar to be hitting quite this well.


(or Jose Molina, small sample size and all that.)
   65. Darren Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:49 PM (#3898865)
@51--Sorry to not have been clearer. Yaz and Ripken were examples, I believe, of guys whose swings were "working." They just kept changing them to get an edge, to keep improving, and to stay ahead of the pitchers (Carew was another one.) Arod's swing was working too and he changed his, again, to try to get even better. My point was that a swing/stance/whatever is not sacred. It's one of the many things players tinker with to get better.
   66. DCA Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:53 PM (#3898872)
@64

Escobar 2007-2009: .301/.375/.426
Escobar 2011 so far: .301/.381/.434

The improvement's actually a bit more than that because of the lower run environment, but yes, I think a lot of people expected Escobar to be hitting this well. 2010 appeared pretty likely to be an outlier at the time, and in hindsight that's exactly what it was.
   67. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 09:57 PM (#3898875)
Also, I still want to know why they don't do the exact same adjustments for all of their players who are struggling.

Well I think the earlier statement of what works for one hitter may not work for others. But the 2010 Blue Jays are a perfect example of an entire team adopting the Bautista approach. It worked amazingly for some, not so hot for others.

Also worth noting, one of AA's mandates after taking over was to beef up the scouting and coaching departments to a tremendous degree.
   68. Greg K Posted: August 12, 2011 at 10:01 PM (#3898880)
He isn't Bautista, but I don't think too many people were expecting Escobar to be hitting quite this well.

Though to be fair Escobar isn't using an approach anywhere near Bautista's. All his extra-base hits seem to come from going the other way.

Also ditto to #66. Escobar isn't too far off his established level.
   69. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 10:11 PM (#3898886)
It's worth repeating - Bautista said that many coaches had, over the years, told him that he needed to start his swing earlier. He also said that he began working on the new timing when arrived with the Blue Jays in 2008. All of this is pre-Anthopolous. Ricciardi was actually still in charge for Bautista's first month with the new swing.

This wasn't some brilliant unique insight on the part of Cito Gaston, or the result of extra investment in scouting, or a change that could be easily applied to any hitter.

It sounds like Bautista had a major flaw that was apparent to experts, but one that he had previously been unable to correct. It took deep discussion with the Blue Jays staff before he finally put together a good plan to correct it, and it took a year of practice before he was able to execute the new swing in a real game.

It's fascinating that all the work apparently began to pay off all at once in September 2009. But it sounds like it is, at heart, a 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration type of story.
   70. Ron J Posted: August 12, 2011 at 10:51 PM (#3898907)
#69 Makes sense to me. In the past I've cited Jim Rooker's scouting report after Barry Bonds' rookie season. According to Rooker, Bonds was not able to turn on inside pitches, knew it and was working on it. Rooker said that he expected Bonds to fix that problem and expected him to be one of the game's top power hitters in fairly short order.

Goes back to one of the things that John McGraw liked about college players. He said that players with no education were more likely to try and hide a weakness while an educated one was more likely to acknowledge that he had a problem and work to eliminate it. (As with any general rule there are plenty of specific exceptions)
   71. Walt Davis Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:14 PM (#3898916)
Wily Mo Pena has unmatched physical gifts - and has shown flashes of success. Would a guy like that have improved dramatically going through a similar process as Bautista?

Who knows how important it was in Bautista's transformation but there has always been a major difference between Pena and Bautista -- K and BB rates.

I'm not buying "unmatched physical gifts" either, even as intentional overstatement. Pena's no more talented than, say, Glenallen Hill and not even in the same universe as somebody like the young Griffey Jr. Even if you focused just on raw power, he's no Mike Stanton, Dave Kingman or maybe even Pete Incaviglia, much less an all-time great like Thome.

Which isn't to say he wasn't talented. And certainly at this point in his career (and I was saying much earlier) a substantial change in approach can't hurt.
   72. Mash Wilson Posted: August 12, 2011 at 11:15 PM (#3898918)
My theory is Bautista was the only guy in baseball that WASN'T taking steroids until 2009, then everyone abruptly stopped and he suddenly became the best baseball player in the world. And I'm sticking to it!

Also, I remember reading something last month by Poz talking about how Vernon Wells told Bautista "look, it can't get any worse for you, just think of swinging so early it feels ridiculous, then swing even earlier than THAT" and Bautista tried it and blasted a line drive that went right through the left field wall or something. That was a cool story.
   73. Morty Causa Posted: August 13, 2011 at 12:14 AM (#3898949)
First, read #29. Second, guys do this all the time. Harvey noted Ripken was a big stance changer, and certainly a swing changer. Yaz was too. I remember several years ago when people were up in arms that Jaramillo had the temerity to tinker with ARod's swing. But ARod was on board and he was great afterward. It's a game of constant adjustments and the swing is no exception.


Even Ted Williams fooled around with his swing. He writes about it in My Turn At Bat. He tried different things (mostly in batting practice), experimented some, especially when the Shift became prevalent (Hornsby helped him here, he said). Anyway, it's obvious that he did't think his swing sacrosanct in that he thought about change, listened to others, and did do some slight adjusting.
   74. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:03 AM (#3898975)
Here's a guy who was likely on the verge of running out of chances and, in what appears to be over a 48-hour period in September 2009, figures it all out. I find it to be one of the most interesting stories in my years of watching baseball. I don't know if it's ever happened before, or is likely to happen again.

I think I may have mentioned this in another Bautista thread, but, this basically happened to me in my plebian line of work.

I was always really smart, talented, and a terrible underachiever. Got middling grades in high school - got a super high SAT score, got into a good college. Got middling grades in college - but a professor I interned for thought I was bright, so I got into a decent graduate program. Scuffled along there for a few years - by now I'm 25 - took the LSAT, did very well, got into a good law school. 1L fall term, get middling grades. 1L spring, work my guts out, get slightly better but still middling grades.

So there I am, age 26. having never achieved higher than a ~3.5 average (and never lower than a 3.33) in high school, college, 3 years of a PhD program and 1 year of law school. This is 12 years of data. My academic level is clearly established.

2L Fall. Nothing changes. Study just like I always did, go out just as much, take the same notes. Take exams, they feel just like they always do.

Grades start to come in. A+. A. A (with email from prof telling me i was highest grade in class).

Next 4 semesters, I get one A-. Rest of my grades are all As. Highest grade in a class of 50+ three more times.

I swear to you, I did NOTHING DIFFERENT. To this day (I've been out of law school for a little over a year) I can't tell you what happened. But it was literally like magic.

Mariano Rivera tells a story about how one day, he was fooling around in the bullpen and the ball started cutting and - there it was, he was a pitching superman. IIRC, he belives God touched his arm that day.

Sometimes, improvement can be inexplicable, sudden, random, and wonderful.
   75. Tripon Posted: August 13, 2011 at 01:07 AM (#3898976)

It's worth repeating - Bautista said that many coaches had, over the years, told him that he needed to start his swing earlier. He also said that he began working on the new timing when arrived with the Blue Jays in 2008. All of this is pre-Anthopolous. Ricciardi was actually still in charge for Bautista's first month with the new swing.


There is something to this. I think a part of it is Bautista by and large is smarter than most players. He comes from a middle class family, he went to college, he is an intellectual, he asks questions instead of just accepting things on faith. Makes me wonder if his previous coaches just never bother to explain what they were teaching, or couldn't. Which in turn would make Bautista less likely to embrace it.
   76. 'Spos Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:06 AM (#3899009)
I remember reading something last month by Poz talking about how Vernon Wells told Bautista "look, it can't get any worse for you, just think of swinging so early it feels ridiculous, then swing even earlier than THAT"


Given how early Vern swings, that would be before the pitcher is set.
   77. 'Spos Posted: August 13, 2011 at 02:08 AM (#3899012)
Given how hard he [Vernon] smacked Morrow's first pitch, and Bautista's funk, it might be a good idea.
   78. Something Other Posted: August 14, 2011 at 03:23 AM (#3899491)
I don't see how "explaining" (even if we'll never know 100%, but the search for explanations) belittles Bautista's accomplishments, or makes anyone appreciate what he's done any less. Is a literary explanation or analysis of "Ulysses" detrimental to an appreciation of it? I usually find the exact opposite.

EDIT: This may just be a philosophical difference. I know I've had the experience after watching a film or reading a book, of discussing it with a friend (who also really enjoyed the book or film), and them getting really frustrated with me trying to piece together why I liked it so much. Generally explanations heighten my enjoyment of phenomenon, but I guess that's not how everyone views things.
I agree with your approach, but there's no denying there's a powerful streak of hatred for creative thinking particularly in the US. From my pov, I don't see what's interesting about not looking as deeply as I can into things. As the man said, the unexamined life is not worth leading.

Mariano Rivera tells a story about how one day, he was fooling around in the bullpen and the ball started cutting and - there it was, he was a pitching superman. IIRC, he belives God touched his arm that day.
Priceless. Millions die every year, in agony, from starvation, and a man thinks that God has chosen to intervene in order to... improve his ability to throw a baseball.
   79. The District Attorney Posted: August 14, 2011 at 03:32 AM (#3899501)
Bono has a similar story... one day, he could just sing. (Those who dislike U2, insert joke here.)

I tend to view "miraculous breakthroughs" as just-so stories, suspecting that they represent the result of lots of practice and wheels turning in the background. But, who knows.

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