Don’t let the low batting average fool you: Jose Bautista is still a monster

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Jose Bautista’s batting average has hovered around .200 all season, but don’t let that trick you into thinking he’s turned back into a pumpkin after a pair of MVP-caliber years.

Bautista smacked his 15th homer last night, which puts him on pace for 43 on the season after going deep 43 times last year and 54 times in 2010. He’s also on pace to draw more than 90 walks for the third straight year, has a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio at 40-to-32, and ranks fourth among AL hitters in RBIs.

In other words he’s every bit the same homer-hitting, walk-drawing monster he’s been for the past two seasons, except missing 50 points of batting average. And even that’s changing, as Bautista has gone 27-for-93 (.290) in his last 25 games to raise his batting average from .177 to .228 in less than a month.

And that should continue to rise as his luck events out, because Bautista’s batting average on balls in play is currently the lowest in the entire league at .209, which is both unsustainably awful and 65 points below his career norms. I’ll be shocked if he’s not back among the AL’s top 10 in all of homers, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage, and OPS by the All-Star break.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.