Mike Pelfrey vs. Jason Bay: Who Is the New York Mets' Bigger Concern for 2012?

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Mike Pelfrey vs. Jason Bay: Who Is the New York Mets' Bigger Concern for 2012?
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jason Bay's paltry .167 average is hardly befitting of a $66 million man.

New York Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey and left fielder Jason Bay are both coming off tough seasons.

Pelfrey finished 2011 at 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Bay, a career .274 hitter, struggled to a .245 batting average.

And neither had a spring that inspired much confidence for 2012. In his first four Grapefruit League starts, Pelfrey gave up 20 runs and racked up an 11.49 ERA.

His performance was so disappointing that manager Terry Collins told Pelfrey that his future with the organization was in doubt. To his credit, Pelfrey responded with strong outings to end the spring.

His regular-season debut on Monday night was typical Pelfrey. He was shaky at the start, giving up three runs on seven hits in two innings, and he had thrown 100 pitches by the sixth inning. But Pelfrey struck out eight Washington Nationals and kept the Mets in the game, affording New York the eventual 4-3 win.

Bay, meanwhile, continued to disappoint. He didn't bat his weight in exhibition play; the 211-pound veteran hit .195, with no RBI. In the Mets' first four games this season, Bay has just two hits—good for an anemic .167 batting average. The boo birds in Queens are squawking.

Both Pelfrey's and Bay's numbers are obviously cause for concern. If neither improves, who poses the potentially greatest liability? Let's break it down:

 

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Mike Pelfrey's season debut Monday night was just good enough. That might be enough to satisfy the Mets in 2012.

PELFREY

No doubt about it, Pelfrey had a lousy 2011 and got off to a rotten start this year at Port St. Lucie. Collins' shape-up-or-ship-out message must have had him quaking in his cleats.

The fact that the 28-year-old vet has shaped up (thus far) showed that Pelfrey has been, and can be, an effective pitcher. The Mets had high expectations for Big Pelf last year after a promising 2010. He's been like a tree that flowers only every other year. (Good news for 2012 if he follows his good-year, bad-year pattern.)

Also in Pelfrey's favor: he can throw 200 innings a year. He doesn't need to do much more than what he did against Washington Monday night—keep the Mets close, try to get into the sixth or seventh inning, and get out of Dodge.

 

BAY

Jason Bay hasn't been the same since July 23, 2010.

Bay made all the sports highlights shows that night with a spectacular catch at Dodger Stadium. Part of the spectacle was that he held onto the ball after a full-speed sprint that took him head first into the left-field wall.

Bay spent the rest of the season on the DL with a concussion, and continued to have symptoms throughout a flat 2011 season.

Who Will Be the Greatest Liability for the Mets in 2012?

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It's tough to trash Bay for his weak performance; his injury was the result of an all-out hustle play. When the Mets signed him to a four-year, $66 million contract in 2010, it seemed like a relative bargain for a three-time All-Star who slammed 36 homers for the Red Sox in 2009.

Injury or not, Mets fans are still waiting for Bay to live up to his bona fides. Now, according to the New York Post, there's talk that Bay could platoon with a yet-to-be-named player if he's still struggling six or seven weeks out. 

However he performs, the Mets have far more invested in Bay than Pelfrey. The 33-year-old outfielder is still owed $32 million over the next two seasons. Plus there's the cost of bringing in the fences at the once-cavernous Citi Field, mostly for the benefit of Bay and David Wright. (Wright responded by going yard on Sunday against the Braves.)

 

VERDICT

Collins may gnaw off a few fingernails watching Pelfrey pitch, but Bay's play will keep the Mets brass awake at night.

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