What fluke? Jose Bautista hitting .364 with AL-high 8 homers

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Last night Jose Bautista homered for the fourth time in four games, giving him a league-leading eight homers on the season despite missing three games due to the birth of his daughter.

Bautista, whose monster 2010 was deemed a fluke by nearly everyone because it came at age 29 and after six totally unremarkable seasons, is now leading the league in batting average (.364), on-base percentage (.517), slugging percentage (.788), and OPS (1.305) in addition to homers and walks.

When the Blue Jays signed Bautista to a five-year, $65 million contract extension in February many people reacted as if they’d made a terrible mistake, assuming that Bautista failing to duplicate his 2010 breakout would leave them regretting the deal. I tried to point out at the time that in reality he certainly doesn’t have to hit 50 homers with a 1.000 OPS to be worth $13 million per season, although right now that seems like kind of a moot point.

Dating back to September 1 of 2009 he’s hitting .270 with 72 homers, 132 walks, and a 1.016 OPS in 208 games, so anyone calling it a “fluke season” should probably at least do Bautista the favor of calling it a “fluke season-and-a-half” at this point. Or maybe just ditch the “fluke” part altogether until he stops leading the league in everything.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.