FanPost

What is wrong with Jason Bay?

Jason Raymond Bay used to be very good at baseball.

After a career that included a stint in the little league world series with Canada, a rookie of the year campaign in 2004 with the Pirates, and slugging .519 from his rookie year on, Jason Bay became a New York Met. On December 29th, 2009 Omar Minaya signed the 31 year old left fielder, the same man he traded away in 2002 with the Expos.

After a career that included a stint in the little league world series with Canada, a rookie of the year campaign in 2004 with the Pirates, and slugging .519 from his rookie year on, Jason Bay became a New York Met. On December 29th, 2009 Omar Minaya signed the 31 year old left fielder, the same man he traded away in 2002 with the Expos.

The immediate reaction was some where around "He's not Matt Holliday, he's probably overpaid, but he's a good hitter and a real LFer (rather than Sheffield or Murphy)." You know the contact, around 16 mil a year with a vesting option for 17 mil in 2014. A nameless Amazin' Avenue writer said on December 30th, 2009 in article innocuously titled "On Jason Bay":

On the hitting side, his talent is undeniable, but much has been made of his "old-body skills" (high K, HR, and BB). After looking at some comparable players -- Jay Buhner and Tim Salmon seemed particularly apt -- I'm not worried about a sudden dropoff. In the later years of the contract he could see a decline, but I think he's just as likely to maintain the same level for the time being. Nobody hits a .400 wOBA in the AL East and then sees a sudden decline because they moved to a big park in the NL and turned 32. I expect ~30 runs above average.

[snip]

No, he's not Matt Holliday. Yes, the contract is kind of stupid. But Jason Bay is a heck of a consolation prize and one of those fabled "complementary players" that help Reyes/Wright reach a championship.

Welp. A reasonable prediction, to be sure. Yet the words are oddly prophetic in retrospect. Combing through the comments of this article, the main worries were about Bay's defense and Omar's seeming unwillingness to negotiate with Holliday.Ted Berg agrees and writes that Bay is a decent signing, and certainly not disturbing one. But I couldn't resist quoting one comment in response to accusations of Bay declining to around a 2 WAR a year player:

I hope he doesn't drop to 2 WAR anytime soon. That's just depressing, paying $16 million dollars for that.

Bay has yet to accumulate 2 WAR over his Mets career...

Back in the present tense, the three time Tip O'Neill award winner has lost his starting job and is a symbol of Mets failure akin to Castillo and Perez. Hitting a solo homer sparks articles about potential turn arounds. So what the hell? How did Jason Bay go from an all star to a platoon player?

Lets look at the stats. Good Bay (as I shall refer to his career in Boston and Pittsburgh) put up a collective line of 280/375/519 and 33 homers per year. Bad Bay (his mets career) is a mere 237/322/372 (!) who averages 8 homers. So right away the power drop off is apparent. Every year with the Mets, he has been seeing more fastballs at the plate. His first year he saw just over 55% fastballs, up to 58.3% this year. I believe this is just a product of his woes, not a cause.

More tellingly, Bay's GB/FB ratio was never over 0.93 before his Mets career, while in his current and 2011 seasons it is 1.07 and 1.00. While in his first year as a Met Bay's ratio was 0.79- right in in line with his career averages. Actually, Bay's entire 2010 batted ball profile fits his career averages with one notable exception- only 5.1% of his fly balls left the park, well below the Good Bay average of 17.2%. This is the most perplexing part of the Bay puzzle. So Bay is hitting more ground balls, except in 2010 when he hit less and still hit a lot loss home runs, so yeah....

Ok so the batted ball profile shows the some of Bay's decline, but it doesn't clear up his Met power outage. So on to plate discipline. In his two full seasons a Met, Bay's o-swing%(how often he swings at pitches outside the zone) spiked to 27.1 and 27.7 %, up from his Good Bay average of 19.3%. Also, Bay is making more contact witch pitches outside the zone. So its reasonable to think this could lead to the lack of fly balls- more weak contact, (except in 2010 when he hit more fly balls). Bay's walk rate has dropped as a Met, but I can't parse whether its a symptom or cause of his troubles.

Bay has also had some injury problems as a Met, crashing into the wall in the outfield. Twice. It is to murky to say how these injuries affected him at the plate, and to what extent. Also, just by judging just my own eyes Bay's defense has not suffered since these incidents. Bay has not seemed coy in the outfield, diving and hustling to balls. In fact, his defense is the only thing better than expected. So I dunno, really. This really is a mystery.

So the last thing to consider is if his problems are mental, caused by CitiField's walls, New York, his contract, or something else entirely. Bay is dogged everyday by questions, is often on the receiving ends of boos and bronx cheers, and its hard to believe he really is in a good place mentally. Yet, Terry Collins has maintained publicly that Bay is well liked in the clubhouse and a hard worker. In a WSJ article, Terry said:

"I was happy to see that [a 2-5 day with a homer] from Bay," Collins said. "He's a good player. Everybody's pulling for him."

The Mets seemed as baffled as I am. When hitting coach Dave Hudgens was asked of Bay's struggles he just respond:

"There's really no answer," Hudgens said. "There is no answer."

The same article maintains that Bay's work ethic has not lagged, that he is a well liked teammate, and honest with reporters.

Oh and here's another depressing Bay quote, via the NY times:

"It kills me like you could not understand," Bay said of his lack of production. "But I owe it to the guys in here to show that it's not about me. It's about everybody else. There's something bigger going on here."

Yet the same article maintains (again) that Bay's work ethic has not lagged, he remains well liked in the club house, and does his best to keep his attitude positive. Again, here's Bay:

"Whatever happens will happen, but it's very important to me that, no matter what, I don't become a distraction for these guys," Bay said. "I want to be the same guy, and hopefully they respect that."

I actually feel bad for Bay. By all (public) accounts, he is doing his best trying to help his team while doing his best to keep his negativity in check. But then I hear a something like this from Bay:

"Sometimes you have to remind yourself that this is what you've done your whole life," Bay said, "and you've been pretty good at it."

And can't help but think there is no way he can be in a good frame of mind. David Wright himself says you can read the frustration in Bay's face. And there's this quote from a 2007 article from the Canadian site CBC:

I'm just not feeling comfortable in the [batter's] box. Even batting practice is tough. I'm just trying to get hits but it really sticks with me when I put pressure on myself. I start thinking about too many things.

The slump referred to here pales in comparison to his woes now, so its easy to read into this and think there is no way he is in the proper frame of mind to be the hitter he once was. But am I reading to much into this? I can never say with Bay...

But Bay handled himself well in pressure packed Boston, serving as a replacement for Manny Ramirez. So it can't just be the pressure of New York itself, right? The pressure of a big contract, or expectations seems a more likely cause then something about New York itself.

Another possibility could be something has gone mechanically awry with his swing, but I am not the person to analyze a swing. Yet his swing is about the only excuse I have not heard bandied about as the cause of his troubles. So I'm going to take a leap of faith and say that is likely not it.

So here I am, almost fifteen hundred words later and I have no idea what Bay's problems can be attributed to. I believe the mental aspect plays a large role in this, but then what sent him into that slump in the first place in 2010? I have no real answers, just more questions. And if it feels like I'm writing in circles and saying nothing- its because I am. The only thing I can say for sure is I do in fact feel bad for Bay, and that I do not believe he can turn this around as a member of the New York Mets. Maybe a sports therapist will help? I think some positivity from the fans would do him some good, maybe cheer when he comes up to bat and see what happens. But, I will say for the last time- I really don't know.

But hey, at least his defense has been better than expected.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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