Let's face it: We're all probably going to spend much of the next few months talking and kvetching and worrying about José Bautista, and what happens to him in the offseason and through to next year.
Which isn't such a bad thing, if you consider that it will give us the chance to think fondly about the otherworldly 2010 season he has had. (Really: This year has been way too ridiculous to even begin to wrap your head around, and it's going to take a few months to even let it register.)
Since we fully expect to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the Bearded One, we figured that we'd start a new feature that we'll call "Let's Talk About JoBau". There's the temptation to toss out everything about him all at once in one post, but we know that you kids get bored of us after about 300 words, so we'll split this up into bite-sized chunks.
Other than "batters box", what is JoBau's best position?
So where should he play? Since coming to the Jays, Bautista has played games at first, second, third and all three outfield positions, though the majority of his games (102) have been played in right. And the temptation amongst many that we've heard is to keep him into right field, where his strong arm could be maximized to help keep fear in the hearts of baserunners rounding bases.
If only that were the only aspect of playing the field.
It might surprise some that JoBau's fielding numbers in right have been pretty dismal this season: His UZR is -4.0, and the UZR/150 number shows him as -10. And this is even with an Outfield Arm Runs Above Average number of 5.1 (which falls only behind Jeff Francoeur, Shin-Soo Choo, and Brett Gardner in the Bigs.)
Bautista's numbers slip so far in part because of very weak range in right. His Range Runs Above Average sits at -8.8, which puts him towards the bottom of all Major Leaguers. And if we're pulling our head away from the metrics and towards our memory, we can say that we can remember a number of bad paths to the ball that JoBau has taken this season, and a few drops that should not have been. (The sort of stuff that would have been harboured and rehashed about the former right fielder, who never posted numbers anywhere near that low, even in his worst year with the Jays.)
So does that settle it, and do we just ship JoBau to third? Not so fast, Speed Racer: Bautista's -10.2 UZR/150 (fueled by a -4.4 Range number) is hardly enough to get him crowned at the hot corner. For that matter, his fielding metrics at third are nowhere near as positive as Edwin Encarnacion's. (No, really). E5 has earned that title somewhat, but his range number (5.0) shows that he gets to many balls hit near or around him...he just doesn't always do goodly with them once the ball is in his hand (-4.4 Error Runs Above Average).
(Which isn't to say that we even think that Edwin returns next year. But we just use this to provide some perspective.)
Beyond those two likely fielding positions, there is a chance that JoBau could see time back in left, though it is more likely that position will be reserved for the "weak-fielding" Travis Snider (he of the 8.1 UZR/150, second best amongst Jays OFs). First base might well be available after Lyle Overbay's seemingly imminent departure, and we'd be inclined to make an argument for JoBau to take up residence there, though we think it's unlikely enough that we needn't bother.
If there is one thing that we can say positively about Bautista's place in the field next year, it is that the flexibility that the Jays have with him will provide them with greater flexibility in looking to bring someone else in. Bautista's not blocking anyone from any of those positions, and should a third baseman or right fielder of any consequence advance through the system or become available before next season, there's nothing to preclude the Jays from grabbing them.