Before I begin, I want to first clarify that I was happy when the Mets signed Jason Bay in the offseason. I would have preferred a similar type deal to the one that the Red Sox offered of two years with a team option, but I realized that the Mets had to overpay to get him to play in Flushing rather than in Beirut.
One of the things that I felt made the deal less risky, was a study the Mets did which showed that Jason Bay’s home run power would play well in the vastness of Citi Field because he was such an extreme pull hitter.
Bay’s propensity to pull the ball down the left-field line, where the wall was a very reachable 335 feet from home plate, really made Bay a better choice than a younger and more athletic Matt Holliday for the Mets. So what went wrong?
Let me present the evidence courtesy of Hit Tracker.
As you can see in this first chart, 31 of Jason Bay’s 36 home runs in 2009 were hit from left center to the left field line. Obviously, the Mets were counting on Jason Bay to be the pull hitter he had been for the Red Sox last season. It was reasonable to believe that Bay would enjoy some success playing half of his games in Citi Field. So what went wrong?
Fast forward to this season and the problem is easy to see. Not one of his six home runs were pulled down the left field line. If you edited out the name and showed these charts to any expert, they could never imagine that the results were from the same hitter.
Before he went on the disabled list, Jason Bay was asked to grade his season to date.
“C, C-plus. I’ll at least give it a plus. Obviously, it can be better. I can hit better. I know that. Everyone else knows that. I haven’t hit that well. It hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been historically what I have done, and I understand that.”
When the Mets signed Jason Bay, they thought they were getting the right handed pull hitter that would give their lineup the power hitter they were missing in 2009. Instead, Bay fell victim to the same problems that plagued David Wright a season ago. And while Wright made the choice to be more of an opposite field hitter in the Spring of 2009, Bay has simply been late on most of his swings all season long, and he has struggled to hit pitches on the inside part of the plate which was once his hot zone.
Another interesting fact regarding Bay’s season, is that when he does pull the ball to the left side of the diamond, more often than not he’s hitting ground balls instead of fly balls. It’s another discouraging sign and certainly one to keep an eye on.
It’s hard to say if this is just a steep decline due to age, or if it’s just an anomaly and that he will ultimately revert back to the slugger the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him.
Last week, Jerry Manuel hinted that Bay would not return this season. If it’s true, the worst part of that news would be that Bay never gets the chance to return this season and figure out what went wrong and work on getting his swing and approach back in order. It will also keep the team and the fans wondering all offseason long which Jason Bay shows up next Spring.
Another thing to consider is the mindset of the Mets in how they handle the offseason. Do they try and add another slugger to provide David Wright with the protection he never really received from Bay in the batting order? Or do they stay the course and enter next season without any significant changes to the offense?
I believe that a lot of it will depend on who the GM will be after the season. If Omar stays, expect few changes. However a new GM will quickly look to put his stamp on the team with new additions via trades or free agency. Either way though, I consider Bay to be immovable because of his contract. Whatever the solution or plan is for 2011, expect Bay to be a big part of it.