So I thought I was finished with the evaluations, then realized that I somehow missed Jason Bay.
Most likely it was because he didn’t appear on the official 40-man roster when I put together my list of players to write about back in October. But, the fact I completely forgot about him speaks volumes about his first year as a Met.
Without doubt, Jason Bay was a disappointment after signing a 4-year, $66M deal last winter. Based on his past history and the richness of his contract, expectations were high. It was assumed that Bay would laugh in the face of the cavernous confines of Citi Field, and mash his usual 30-35 HRs. Heck, the crack research team managed by Omar Minaya had done extensive studies proving that Bay — and not Matt Holliday — was most suited to the Mets’ home park and more likely to hit homers based on his ability to pull the ball.
But instead, Bay hit 6 four-baggers. Six.
Granted, he missed the last two months of the season due to a concussion, but 6 homers in 95 games / 401 plate appearances is, well, feeble.
As David Wright was in 2009, it was clear that Bay was “psyched out” by Citi Field, and possibly also affected by the dual pressures of the big contract and New York City (not unlike Carlos Beltran‘s first year as a Met). Yes, Bay played in Boston, which is a similar if not more intense media pressure cooker, but he was more of a supporting cast member than savior during his time there. Not to mention that Fenway is much more friendly to sluggers than Citi Field.
Interestingly, the one pleasant surprise in Bay’s game was the same part that had the pundits putting him down — his defense. There was so much squawking about Bay’s supposed inability to play the field that we were braced to expect balls to bounce off Bay’s head. Instead, Bay looked completely competent and at times good while grazing the vast pasture of left field. I’m sure there are stats that say Bay was bad in the field, but my eyes saw someone who rarely made mistakes; got decent jumps; made good judgments on batted balls toward his direction; displayed average range; threw the ball accurately with above-average strength to the correct base; hustled after everything hit his way; did a fair job of playing balls off the wall; and showed no fear (as demonstrated by his bobblehead-like bounce off the fence that resulted in his season-ending concussion).
We waited for the streaky Bay to catch fire at the plate, but he never did. Offensively, he was a grave disappointment, but as a ballplayer in general I did enjoy his all-out effort, sound fundamentals, and attention to detail in all aspects of the game. Unfortunately, being a strong all-around ballplayer who hits only .260 with a .403 slugging percentage is not enough to justify a $66M contract. The only way I can look at his inaugural season in a somewhat positive perspective is to say that it cost the Mets “only” $6.5M — just $1.5M more than they paid Jeff Francoeur.
While his 2010 salary was relatively cheap, it jumps to $16M per year beginning in 2011 — an increase of nearly three times. That said, Bay must be AT LEAST three times better in ’11 than he was in ’10. At minimum, he needs to triple — if not quadruple — his homerun output. Considering his skill set, there is no reason Bay can’t reach 25 HR, 30+ doubles, a .270 AVG, and .370 OBP. Though he’s being paid to be a 30-35 HR guy, I’d be completely happy with 20-25 dingers combined with high hits, doubles, triples, walks, and run totals. The problem is that Bay has tended to be viciously streaky throughout his career, and he has yet to find the “zone” in a Mets uniform. Considering that there are at least three more years on his contract, there is still time for Bay to get hot. I have a good feeling that Bay will rebound in a similar fashion to how Beltran did in his second year in New York; though, I don’t expect an MVP-like performance. Rather, I can see Bay settling in, relaxing, and hitting more like the player we saw in Boston in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t need to be a super hero, he just needs to be Jason Bay.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.