After summarizing his career, I concluded that Bautista would "cool down eventually and won't be leading the league in home runs in September, but will remain productive overall....good power, more walks than in the past, mediocre batting average."
Yeah, well, I was sure wrong about that. Expecting him to cool off was the logical, rational thing to think. And it was also totally wrong.
Bautista has hit 52 homers, 14 more than his nearest competitor. The batting average is just .261, but he's drawn 97 unintentional walks, giving him a .381 OBP. He's second in the league with 99 walks overall. He's in second place in Offensive WAR, third in OBS, third in slugging, ninth in OBP. By any standards, it has been a remarkable season for Bautista.
How do we explain it? Power spikes are not unusual for players in their late 20s, although this one has been intense. As I wrote in the Retro, he's usually controlled the strike zone well throughout his career, and injuries plus the season lost to Rule 5 slowed his development. You can plausibly say that Bautista's career path is "off' by two seasons as a result, so perhaps 2010 represents a more "classic" age 27 peak, although certainly an extreme one. Cases like this always cause rumors about PED use nowadays, but he did make adjustments to his swing, and fluke seasons can happen absent anything pernicious.
One of the sad things about the whole steroid controversy for me is that it makes us wonder now, even when there is no evidence of any wrong doing.