It’s possible that reports of Jose Bautista’s demise were exaggerated. The sample size is small, but it appears the slugger has at least one more last gasp in him with the Mets this season.
A change of scenery did Bautista good — excluding his first 12 games of this season where he hit a release-worthy .143 in 40 plate-appearances with the Braves. Bautista is on pace hit for his highest average since his 2015, his last All-Star season.
That season, Bautista hit .250 with 40 home runs. While he most likely isn’t going to approach those power numbers — he had just seven home runs at the break — his average with the Mets is comparable. Bautista is hitting .238 and has, more or less, played himself into an everyday role with the Mets — though injuries to Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes have no doubt helped that.
“He wasn’t playing much when he first got here, and he grinded it out, wasn’t worried about his playing time, and just kept on working everyday.” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “When he got the opportunity, he kind of seized it and he’s reaping the benefits and so are we. He’s done a great job of just staying focused and being the best player he can be.”
With the Mets, Bautista has 5 home runs, 10 doubles, 21 runs scored and 21 RBIs. His .437 slugging percentage and .830 OPS are not far off from his career averages of .479 and .841.
Bautista’s career numbers speak for themselves. He’s a six-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger. He’s hit 25 or more homers six times in his eight previous seasons, including a career-best 54 in 2010. The Mets knew this when they signed him on May 22, but they also knew his career numbers were on a downward trend.
He hit .203 with 23 home runs last season and .234 with 22 home runs in 2016.
Perhaps that’s why Callaway hesitated a bit when asked if he was surprised at Bautista’s production.
“That’s a tough question because he has been such a good player for many, many years,” Callaway said. “You always think they have it in them, which is why we got him.
“He takes care of himself, he’s in a really good spot physically, and he’s always in a real good spot mentally with the type of career he’s had. You can’t ever count those type of guys out. I think he’s done a great job coming in here and putting himself in a position to succeed.”