Bautista hammers his way to Hank Aaron Award

Bautista hammers his way to Hank Aaron Award

Jose Bautista did not set lofty expectations entering the 2010 season. His goal was to perform well enough to remain in the Blue Jays' lineup and take advantage of the opportunity to turn his career around.

He succeeded -- in a big way.

Over the course of the season, Bautista emerged as one of the premier sluggers in baseball, launching a club-record 54 home runs in a historic showing for Toronto. On Sunday, he earned some hardware for his efforts, receiving this year's Hank Aaron Award as the top hitter in the American League.

"Obviously, [it is] a great honor to receive this award," Bautista said. "Every time you get acknowledged and receive a consideration like this, you have to thank all the people that allow you to get to that position. That being said, my family and obviously all the voters, the fans, the panel of Hall of Famers, and Mr. Hank Aaron."

Bautista hardly took a typical path to stardom.

Impressive improvements
Jose Bautista broke Davey Johnson's record for the biggest increase in home runs over the previous season
Player First Second Gain
Jose Bautista 13 (2009) 54 (2010) 41
Davey Johnson 5 (1972) 43 (1973) 38
Brady Anderson 16 (1995) 50 (1996) 34
Greg Vaughn 18 (1997) 50 (1998) 32
Lou Gehrig 16 (1926) 47 (1927) 31
Sammy Sosa 36 (1997) 66 (1998) 30
Courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau

After spending the bulk of his career as a utility player, bouncing between a handful of organizations, Bautista found a second chance with the Blue Jays. After using him in various roles during the previous two seasons, Toronto gave him a shot at serving as the everyday right fielder in 2010.

"I got the opportunity to play every day," Bautista said. "I've got to thank the Toronto Blue Jays for that. And then I made a lot of adjustments. I changed my approach to hitting. I became more aggressive, and I also kind of tweaked the way I prepare myself.

"I start my swing on my load earlier, on the pitcher's delivery, and that allowed me to attack the baseball more."

Bautista's 54 home runs, which broke George Bell's 1987 franchise record of 47 for one season, led all of baseball. In 161 games, he hit at a .260 clip, collecting 35 doubles, 124 RBIs and 100 walks along the way. He paced Toronto's offense, which finished with 257 homers (tied with the '96 Orioles for the third-highest total in one year).

Bautista also became only the 26th player in baseball history to launch at least 50 homers in one campaign and just the 14th to pile up at least 50 homers and 100 walks in the same season. He was only the fourth player all-time with at least 35 doubles, 50 home runs, 100 walks, 100 runs and 120 RBIs.

During his breakout season, Bautista was named to his first AL All-Star team and set a Major League record with a single-season increase of 41 home runs.

Among his AL peers, Bautista ranked first in homers, extra-base hits (92) and total bases (351) while ranking second in walks, third in RBIs, fourth in slugging percentage (.617) and fifth in runs scored (109). He established club records for a right-handed hitter in slugging and extra-base hits and became just the fourth player in team history to draw at least 100 walks in a season.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.