That's a gross generalization intended it makes the point. Greater minds have hit Damien Cox's weak-ass cheese about the Blue Jays' Bautista out of the park -- Cox Bloc even came out of retirement -- but whatthehell.
A couple points: One is that Cox showed what can happen when the perpetuation of PED hysteria is combined with an age of digital democracy. It's possible for anyone to write a So-And-So Must Be On Steroids post any day of the week. (Bleacher Report must exist for some reason, people.)
Every sport is in play (Mike Wilner: "You can either choose to believe those who have passed [drug] tests are clean or you can choose to believe that cheating is still rampant in the game and enjoy the game anyway.").
That makes it awfully curious that since every sport is fair game, a hockey writer such as Cox went out of his way to ding a ballplayer. Just saying.
The second point is that Lloyd Dobler principle from Say Anything, "I know that I don't know." One of daily journalism's old saws is the "good at English, bad at math" stereotype. Speeding up the sports culture hasn't changed that; it's only served to reveal it. And it's not any more prevalent among older journos than younger ones.
The difference, though, is some realize journalism is not the totality of one's personal experience and general knowledge. As a former mediocre math student, I know I am the wrong person to come up with all-encompassing, quintessential answer for why Bautista has been such an outlier, with 40 homers and counting through Monday. (His previous single-season high in the majors was 16.)
(Update: Dave Cameron, who might be that right person, has looked at it over at Fangraphs.)
At the very least, you gotta make an effort, you know?
Cox's first mistake, of course, was focusing only on the raw sum, Bautista's home-run total. It's not about the counting stats. It's about the rate stats.
At a glance, Bautista seems to be on a unique if unsustainable run. Only two everyday players in the majors have had a higher percentage of their batted balls become fly balls than Bautista (53.2%, according to what was posted at Fangraphs as of 12 a.m. Eastern on Aug. 24).
Only three had had a higher percentage of their fly balls go out of their park than Bautista (20.8% home run/fly ball rate). You want to question anything, question why he's able to get more loft on the ball, and hit it so far (although we know steroids don't make you hit the ball farther).
Rogers Centre, according to Hit Tracker, is the homerdome this season, yielding a MLB-high 2.86 gopher balls per game. New Yankee Stadium is next at 2.78, then there's a huge drop-off down to the 2.5 range.
Bautista has hit 25 of his 40 homers at home, in about 50 fewer at-bats than on the road.
That helps make the case Bautista is just an outlier. It doesn't give us all the answers, but it gives us a good framework.
Only one other everyday player hits more of his batted balls in the air and has also seen at least 20% of his fly balls sail over outfield fences — the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mark Reynolds. But you know where this is heading. Reynolds, who had 27 homers through Monday, is famous for striking out in a 40% about of his at-bats, nearly twice Bautista's whiff rate. Reynolds' home park is also a launching pad.
Who else is beating Bautista in home run/fly ball rate? The Cincinnati Reds' Canadian first baseman, Sports Illustrated cover boy Joey Votto (26.1%), leads the majors. Votto doesn't hit the ball in the air with any great frequency, which is part of why he's vying for a batting title in the National League while also being up with the leaders in home runs (and guess what, Votto's home park in Cincy also is notoriously generous for homers, 2.39 per game).
Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena (23.5%), has a ratio of almost three strikeouts for every two base hits he collects, for pity's sake. Next up is another Three True Outcomes slugger, the Washington Nationals' Adam Dunn (21.7%).
Bautista has struck out 95 times in 522 times at-bat this season, which isn't a lot for a cleanup hitter. He's more of 2 1/2 True Outcomes & mdash home run, base on balls, a few strikeouts.
A mathematician, I am not, but there is some plausibility to saying Bautista is on a roll, derived from changing his approach to produce more fly balls in his home run-friendly home stadium. The increase in his home run/fly ball rate from 2009 over the past season (12.3% to 20.8) is almost identical to that enjoyed by Votto (17.5% to that aforementioned 26.1). But no is wondering how that came to be for Votto, even in his hometown of Toronto. Nor should they.
None of this completely explains away why Bautista made it to 40 homers this season before anyone else reached 35. He did show signs when he put up a .339 on-base / .606 slugging with 10 homers in 125 times at-bat in Septemeber. It wasn't meant to, since I ain't that smart. The point is it's not that hard to at least be in the ballpark, so to speak, when an ballplayer's performance improves markedly. It's asinine and reductionist, not to mention played-out, to just automatically mention steroids. You could even say it's pathetically naive to think going for shock value for its own sake works.
The truth is out there if you care to learn how others are looking for it. Perhaps Damien Cox will learn to do that someday.
(The gist of Cameron's post:
"For the most part, he’s been hitting bombs like the two he drilled [Monday] night. If we look at his HR/FB rate, you can see that his frequency of getting balls to clear the wall isn’t that unusual: 21.5 percent of his flyballs have left the park this year, which still ranks him behind Joey Votto (25.7%), Carlos Pena (23.7%), and Adam Dunn (21.7%). Over the past three years, five players have averaged a HR/FB rate of 21.5% or better, which isn't exactly uncharted territory.Good stuff.
"Bautista will likely never have a year like this again, but there’s no reason to think he’s going to revert back to the version we saw before last September."
(Image credit: The Canadian Press.)