Roller Coaster Season Doesn't Stop Jose Bautista From Being Toronto Blue Jays' First-Half MVP

By Thom Tsang
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Deciding on a first-half MVP for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays is a mostly sad process of elimination, really.

Right off the bat, you can basically rule out the entire pitching side of things. With a 29th-place 5.07 team starting ERA going into the second half of the season, to say that the plan to make this one of the best rotations in the AL has blown up spectacularly would be the understatement of the year.

As for the hitting … well, things are at least looking somewhat palatable at ninth place in the majors for runs scored (428), I suppose.

Still, if you were to look at the individual accomplishments, there’s not a whole lot that stands out there. The majority of the everyday lineup can be ruled out. Adam Lind was one of the hottest hitters in the league at one point, but has since returned to a .551 OPS in July leading up to the All-Star break.

So that leaves Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The first of the three is a fantastic defender and is clearly coming around for a career year, but despite leading the team with 3.5 fWAR, Rasmus’ 30.3 percent strikeout rate overall suggests that there is still much work to be done at the plate (not to mention the total lack of speed on the basepaths).

In Encarnacion, the Blue Jays have something of an opposite case. He’s a breakout All-Star hitter with 25 homers and 72 RBIs already, but at -1.2 FLD, he just doesn’t contribute with the glove as long as he’s given one.

So naturally, there’s Bautista, the team’s most valuable player in the first half not because the All-Star has done anything too spectacular or eye-catchingly above expectations … but because he’s been more or less who the Blue Jays expected to get.

And you know, it just so happens that expected value for J-Bau is pretty good.

With a .254/.351/.493 triple slash, the right fielder isn’t exactly one of the best hitters in baseball as he was back in 2011, but he remains arguably the best all-around offensive piece of the Blue Jays.

The reason, of course, is his power. At already 20 homers, Bautista is on back to get back to 35-plus for the third time in four seasons, and even though his OPS has swung back and forth though the first four months (.836, .994, .742, .735), the home run threat has mostly remained a constant until his recent slump in July.

Still, he draws more walks than anyone else on the team, is on pace for double-digit steals, and a 100-35-100 line is not entirely out of the question here.

Even combined with his 5.6 fielding runs above average on defense, not even that is enough to carry the Blue Jays in 2013; but, steady as he is, there’s little doubt that he has been the team’s most valuable player thus far because steady production is just what Toronto needs right now.

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