Why I’m Optimistic About Jason Bay

It’s no secret that Jason Bay is having a rough time as a New York Met. But there is one example from the recent past that could provide a glimmer of hope.

This isn’t the first time that the Mets had a big-time slugger mired in a massive slump. In fact, there was a situation just a few years ago that strongly resembles the current quandary of Jason Bay.

The Mets had a cleanup hitter with a long history of homerun hitting, high OBPs, and a reputation as an RBI man. This player was considered central to the Mets ability as a team to drive runs home, because he was feared by opposing pitchers, he could carry the team on his back, no park could contain his power, and his mere presence could take pressure off other batters in the lineup. You may recall that these were all the same reasons that the Mets gave Jason Bay $60+M to play in Flushing for four or five years.

This mystery player from the past had an injury-marred, uncharacteristic season one year; a year in which he had a significant dropoff in homeruns, batting average, OBP, OPS — just about every offensive category. He started off the next season in a terrible, terrible slump. Everyone watching the team was convinced that this 30-something player was finished (including yours truly) — that his bat speed was gone, his confidence was shot, that he looked clueless at the plate, and there was no sign nor possibility that he was going to return to his former glory. His at-bats had become laughable. He had become something of a pariah, because he was making an astonishing amount of money and coming nowhere close to earning it. It had gotten to the point where he was being sat by the manager so he could “clear his head” or “take a breath” — and when he did sit, everyone agreed the team was better off without him.

Sound familiar? Sound like what’s happening with Jason Bay right now?

You may or may not be on to the “mystery man” by now — it’s Carlos Delgado. It may take some jogging of the memory — since the last time the Mets were in the heat of a pennant race seems like eons ago — but Delgado started off 2008 much like Bay, maybe even worse. Delgado had a decidedly off year in 2007, hitting only .258 with an un-Delgado-like .781 OPS (the worst of his career). Through the first 50 games of the season, Delgado was hitting a feeble .215 with a .684 OPS. Unlike Bay, Delgado did hit a few homers by that point — 8 to be exact — but he otherwise looked totally lost and overwhelmed at the plate. It looked like his career might be over, and he was dragging the team down with his offensive ineptitude.

Then, in games 52 through 54, he went 5-for-12 to end the month of May, and had fits and starts throughout June, until a two-homer, 9-RBI day against the Yankees at the end of the month. From there forward, Delgado was an absolute beast, throwing the Mets on his back and carrying them through the end of the season. He had a Ruthian-like .714 slugging percentage and 1.160 OPS in the month of July, a strong August, and similarly Ruthian September / October to finish the season.

Something in that June started to “click” with Delgado, and then he just went unconscious from July through the end of the year. (People like to point to the firing of Willie Randolph as the difference, but I’m not so sure; Delgado seemed to start to “click” in late May, a full three weeks before Randolph’s departure.) Sure, Delgado and Bay are two very different ballplayers, but they both share a similarity in that they’ve been prone to streakiness. For example, in Bay’s monster 2009 season with the Red Sox, he hit .230 in June and .192 in July, before hitting close to .300 with a 1.000 OPS from August through the end of the season. In other words, Bay has been through long slumps before, and come out of them in a big way.

I, for one, don’t believe Jason Bay’s career is over just yet. There are dozens of theories as to why he’s been less than stellar in 550+ plate appearances as a Met. He hasn’t been very good through most of that time, but he did have a nice stretch last May when he hit .303 with a .811 OPS (he had an identical OPS in April). Those numbers aren’t Ruthian, but they’re pretty good, and they prove that Bay’s time in Flushing hasn’t been ALL bad — as much as it may feel that way.

Can he figure it out? Will he figure it out? I’m going to remain optimistic, mainly because I don’t see anything physically wrong with Bay and I remember how Delgado suddenly “figured it out” and went ape on the rest of the National League. Baseball is a funny game, filled with streaky players, and sometimes, just when you’re ready to write a slumping hitter off, they seemingly flip a switch and turn from goat to hero.

What do yo think? Is Bay finished? Do you have any hope for him? Post your thoughts in the comments.


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. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. izzy June 7, 2011 at 10:13 am
    I think I hope you are right about Bay. Bay is several years younger than that mystery man Delgado was so I think Bay’s massive slump is more mysterious. With Delgado one could easily buy the bat slowing talk. With Bay, his bat speed should be just fine for several more years.
  2. Mic June 7, 2011 at 10:15 am
    Ditto. Bays tools and attitude is just too good.

    PS. Watching capt kirk’s progress?

  3. Mic June 7, 2011 at 10:17 am
    Another consideration is his post concussion symptoms.
    • Joe June 7, 2011 at 11:22 am
      He wasn’t doing that great BEFORE then. That’s the troubling thing here — the extent of this mediocrity.
  4. dave June 7, 2011 at 10:40 am
    I’ve always been impressed with his abiltiy to hustle every play despite his obvious frustrations with his play. I hope he turns it around, he does not deserve to go thru this.

    I also can’t wait to see Capt. Kirk in queens..have a feeling he will endear himself the Mets faithful…

    • Joe June 7, 2011 at 11:25 am
      He seems like a nice guy and defensively is not a deficit but of course getting paid like that etc. the team needs more.

      I would tone down this excitement over Mr. Shatner here until he actually shows an ability to succeed in the bigs for an extended period of time.

  5. JoMama June 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm
    The fact that we’re stuck with Bay for at least 2 more years is reason enough to be optimistic but nothing I’ve seen has made me think he’s just in a slump. I prayed all last year that he’d at least hit for some power – to no avail (this year seems worse). I just think he’s lost and won’t figure it out until he’s shipped out to another team. He’ll bat .240 for us, with 10HR’s then get picked up by the Phillies or Braves and hit .320 with 25 HR’s….just watch.
  6. william June 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm
    i guarantee you give bay a healthy line up with ike and wright around him for more than 4 games. if he has that supporting cast around him say for a two month stretch he is gonna put up some good numbers especially in the rbi department.
    • Gavin June 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm
      Having more protection in the lineup might help, but he was struggling before Wright and Ike went on the DL and he struggled last year when those players were healthy throughout the season.
  7. Sebastian June 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm
    Didn’t a lot of Delgado’s struggles early in 2008 have to do with the wrist injury he had after getting hit by Dontrelle in the last game of 07?
    • Joe Janish June 8, 2011 at 11:47 am
      It certainly played a part — perhaps not unlike Bay’s concussion may have had something to do with his poor start this year?
  8. gary s. June 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm
    Ralph Kiner has said a number of times on the air that Bay stands too far from the plate and is forced to lunge at outside pitches giving up his power.He should listen to Ralph and get closer to he dish.If he doesn’t he will go down as the worst Met f.a. signing ever.
  9. murph June 8, 2011 at 10:53 am
    I think the Mets fans have been very patient so far with Mr. Bay. A less likable guy would have been booed out of town already. But how long can this “slump” go on before it is no longer called a slump and is called “you’re just not good anymore”?

    Here are some other questions:
    What are the Mets coaching staff doing/trying?

    Has anybody analyzed his swing from 2004-2009 and compared it to today?

    Has anyone discussed the possibility that the amphetamine ban has something to do with this?

    Does he need to see a sports psychologist?

    • Joe Janish June 8, 2011 at 11:50 am
      Good questions. I have heard that Bay and Hudgens have spent time in the video room. A psychologist is a good idea.

      The thing is, I doubt it’s just one thing, but rather, a combination of the concussion, his swing mechanics, his mental state, and his approach. And there’s a point where you can over-analyze everything, which is where he might be at this point.