By Taryn “the Coop” Cooper
“If I make it through today,
I’ll know tomorrow not to put my feelings out on display,
I’ll put the cobwebs back in place
I’ve never been too good with names but I remember faces.”
It’s A Shame About Ray, The Lemonheads
That’s what is so baffling about Jason Bay. According to the back of his baseball card, his time with the New York Mets is a statistical anomaly.
Who was once a NL Rookie of the Year is now a laughingstock on the Mets.
He’s the leftover of an era of bad contracts, worse deals and the worst visible collapses in injury and play.
Jason Bay is quite possibly the Mets-iest of the Mets.
He is also quite possible the most divisive Met. Forget David Wright, and whether you think he is good, overrated, a leader, not-so-much. Nothing brings out the most contrary reactions than Jason Bay.
“Why is he starting again?”
“We should just cut him.”
“You never know, he might just turn it on THIS series.” (Which usually means, he’s due to get like his 900th concussion as a Met).
I come not in praise or to bury him. I have made no bones that I like Jason Bay. I’m not about to get a jersey with his name printed up. But I was happy when he signed with the Mets, I actually thought he’d be much better for the team than Matt Holliday, who was also an outfielder available that year. Since then Holliday’s team has won a World Series, and Bay’s stats have fallen off a cliff.
I’m here to say, that it’s a shame what’s happened to him.
Do you want to see some interesting stats? Through his career, Bay has made his mark with three teams mostly: Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, and the Mets. (Editor’s note: I don’t necessarily count his time with San Diego, because it was very brief — THREE GAMES!!! — and he really started to turn it on with the Bucs the next year, when he was actually Rookie of the Year).
- Pittsburgh (6 years/719 games/3038 Plate Appearances) .281/.375/.515, 139 HRs, 452 RBIs, 435 R, 682 K, 374 BBs
- Boston (2 years/200 games/849 PAs) .274/.380/.534, 45 HRs, 156 RBIs, 142 R, 213 K, 116 BBs
- New York (3 years/256 games/1052 PAs) .239/.325/.374, 23 HRs, 113 RBIs, 122 R, 239 K, 116 BBs
Can anyone say…ouch? What’s worse, as I alluded above, that his time with the Mets has not-so-surprisingly been marred with injuries (EVERYONE on the Mets gets hurt at one point or another for extended periods). Even prior to his first big injury, occurring on the infamous West Coast trip where Carlos Beltran returned in 2010, he had a moderate slump. In 95 games with 401 Plate Appearances, he had a line of .259/.347/.402. He almost got to the Francoeur Line (the OBP version of the “Mendoza Line”) of .350 at that point, but a bit of a drop off from the Jason Bay Mets fans expected.
In 2011, since he came back from a concussion, most wondered whether the Jason Bay we knew prior to coming to the Mets would return at all. Perhaps we were a bit gun shy when the Mets decided to fly Ryan Church cross country with a concussion, and Church was never the same after that. Seems all precautions were taken though. Bay still didn’t show up. This time in 129 games with 509 Plate Appearances, .245/.329/.374, including a below the Francoeur Line OBP.
Plate appearances can give you a better idea of what you’re up against, since that also includes any walks the batter might have drawn into consideration. Clearly, he was getting on base less than 2011 in roughly 30 more games than 2010.
Going back to when he was traded to the Red Sox in 2008. I had a friend who was a Sox fan who had never heard of Jason Bay. I told him that he’d love him, he was a hard worker and got on base a lot. This proved true, in his two seasons (technically, 2008 has an asterisk since he was traded midway) he showed great stats. In 49 games with Boston in 2008, with 211 PAs, .293/.370/.527. In 151 games with the Sox in 2009, with 638 PAs, his line was .267/.384/.537.
Since the guys in charge of the Sox were the “smartest guys in the room” (Theo Epstein, a big stats guy), I wondered if he might have predicted a kind of drop off that Bay has had (and if that might have figured into his decision making while Bay was testing the free agent waters) and perhaps might have seen something that no one else would have. Not necessarily, as he smacked the crap out of the ball in the last month of play in 2009, in 29 games and 114 PAs, his line was .310/.386/.580. What was also noteworthy was that while he struck out about 1/3 of the time, when he put the ball in play, it found a “hole” so to speak. He scored 19 runs in that month, with 27 RBIs and 7 HRs.
Sometimes, I wonder if we should do one of those VH-1 shows with “Where Is Jason Bay Now?” Because he is a far cry from that dude who absolutely tore it up in 2009, who finished 7th in the MVP voting that year.
What’s particularly alarming about Bay’s offensive offense is his strikeout-per-at-bat number. Granted, he’s only played in 38 games in 2012, boasting 39 Ks in 125 ABs…that roughly translates to about a strikeout every three at-bats. That’s not Ike Davis-worthy, but at least Davis produces in the at-bats he’s not striking out. However, Bay was striking out quite a bit throughout his career, roughly one out of every four at bats. But like Davis now, Bay at least produced when he wasn’t striking out. He’s no longer doing that.
What’s positive? He hustles. He still remembers how to play left field. That’s about it. Yet, not only is his time with the Mets his big statistical anomaly, you look at his contract (one more year after this one) compared to the others on the team (and bear in mind, they did a LOT of house cleaning in the past two seasons), with $18.25mm due next year and an option for 2014. Johan Santana is the only player getting paid more than Bay, but even with his injury history in his time with the team, Santana at least has the first Mets no-hitter in history, so every single fan will tell you that deal and contract is worth every single penny or prospect given up.
Stats can only tell you part of the story. Sometimes you can look at a drop off and point to — oh, that’s where a player got injured, or they just got old. Something, anything can point to it. Jason Bay was only 31 years old when he signed with the Mets and is only 33 now. Maybe you could argue his best years were behind him, but no one could have expected that decline.
In 38 games in 2012, Jason Bay has 142 PAs with a line of .160/.254/.296, 5 HRs, 10 RBIs, 15 R. He’s struck out 39 times and walked only 16. With 20 hits to his credit, Mike Baxter actually has more (22 in 43 games and 82 PAs).
What else is there to say about Jason Raymond Bay? As The Lemonheads sang in the early 1990s, it’s a shame. Though they sang about a guy named Ray, substitute “Jay” or “Bay,” and it’s a shame either way.
Unfortunately, Jason Bay’s career may end with a whimper and not a bang, and that truly is a shame for a guy who produced and suddenly without explanation has done a nosedive off a cliff.