Monday, May 16, 2011

Battered by Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista didn't begin to emerge as a top power hitter
until late in the 2009 season.
This is how it goes for the Twins: Jose Bautista is a dead pull hitter. He has now hit 70 homers since the 2010 season began;  three of them have gone the opposite way.

And all three came against the Twins.

I'm not about to claim that the Twins pitched Bautista this weekend exactly as they wanted;  the man hit five homers in the three games, and he pulled three of them. But one has to figure that part of the book on him is "make him go to right field." The Twins did that, and still got burned. Literally, it happens to nobody but the Twins.


Bill James wrote long ago about the concept of "free talent" — that there are always players stuck in the minors or on a bench somewhere who can play but aren't getting the chance who are available to the discerning for a low price.

Bautista was free talent. Drafted and signed by the Pirates in 2000, he was plucked in the 2003 Rule V draft by Baltimore. This began a weird 2004 odyssey in which he was waived and claimed, with each team  obligated by his Rule V status to keep him in the majors for the season. Twelve plate appearances for the Orioles, waived, claimed by Tampa Bay; 15 PAs for the Rays, sold to Kansas City; 26 trips to the plate for the Royals, traded back to Pittsburgh at the end of July in a transaction that included the Mets. He played for four major league teams that year.

Free talent; four bottom feeders had him, none cared enough about him to hang on to him.


Programming note: The Twins today begin a West Coast road swing — Seattle, Oakland, Arizona — and the night games figure to run afoul of the tyranny of the press start.

In recent years I have provided here links to game stories, a photo and commentary when the games can't get into the Free Press print edition. But I have a family obligation tonight and Tuesday — I will be out of town helping my mother through some surgery— and between uncertain Internet access and schedule, I doubt I will be able to do that for the Seattle games.

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