The baseball world has unquestionably been surprised by Jose Bautista's success at the plate this season. The right fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays improved his numbers significantly from 2009 to 2010, earning the best home-run total in baseball with 54 dingers, along the way raising his batting average from .235 to .260 and his slugging average from .408 to .617.
But that was just a warmup. Bautista is on course for a monstrous year in 2011. He's currently boasting a .353 BA and a .816 SLG, and he plays the small ball, too, earning a .500 on-base percentage. Add a home-run total of 18--best in Major League Baseball--and 39 walks (also best in the MLB) and you have a bona fide threat at the 3 slot in the Jays' batting order.
The scouting report on Bautista is to throw inside to the right hander, and set him up to swing at a changeup pitch. He likes to pull the ball to the left field both to the infield and outfield.
Several observers in baseball have noted that Bautista simply seems to be seeing the ball well. J.P. Ricciardi, who was the general manager in Toronto when Bautista was acquired, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that at some point last year Bautista finally figured out the timing on the leg kick he utilizes in his batting motion. He was either too early or too late getting his foot down, said Ricciardi. Never on time. But last year, you could see he finally got it down. Once he got that figured out, his confidence bloomed.
If the key to Bautista is throwing off his timing, Yankee fans may be wondering if Bartolo Colon can burnish his changeup and make it his out pitch against the slugger. Colon will be the first Yankee pitcher to face Bautista in the series. Bautista is 1 for 5 against Colon, with two strikeouts.
CC Sabathia will take the mound Tuesday night against the Blue Jays and Bautista--his first confrontation with the current home-run leader.
On Wednesday the Yanks will trot out Freddy Garcia to face Toronto, which is good news for Bautista--he's 4-6 against Garcia with two home runs and three walks. Garcia may want to intentionally walk him--batting behind Bautista is second baseman Aaron Hill, who has had luck against Garcia (2 for 3) but is struggling a bit this year with a .241 average, a .283 on-base percentage and a .319 slugging percentage.