The Big Question: Will Citi Field slow down Jason Bay?
Analysis: The Mets are plagued with fantasy-related questions all throughout their lineup.
Will David Wright rebound after a disappointing ’09 season?
How will Reyes’ thyroid imbalance affect his return?
Is Santana back to his old self after elbow surgery?
Will Beltran have any impact on the 2010 season?
But to me, the most crucial question regarding the 2010 Mets is whether or not Jason Bay will suffer the same Citi Field power shortage that overwhelmed this team last season.
Now, one year of stats isn’t enough to make proclamations about Citi Field being the place where home runs go to die, but the fact that a lot of fantasy analysts are giving this a little attention is enough to give me pause for concern, and what I’m most concerned about is whether or not one of my favorite players is going to endure a statistically handicapped year all thanks to a change in scenery.
I mean, Citi Field did bring about the demise of David Wright, at least for one year anyway. So what’s stopping it from unleashing the same hex upon Jason Bay?
Well, let’s look at some numbers.
Bay signed four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets during the offseason, money that the organization felt he warranted thanks to his stellar play in Boston. In just a little over a season and a half, Bay racked up 45 home runs and 156 RBI, transitioning nicely into the high-profile Boston lineup, a far cry from his days in Pittsburgh.
Most critics, though, attributed Bay’s numbers to a friendly hitter’s park, and many believe that his transition to New York won’t be so smooth. But while I agree that Fenway may have had a hand in spiking Bay’s numbers a little bit, I think that looking at Bay’s past a little more thoroughly can help us anticipate what to expect from him in the future.
Playing for the Pirates, Bay’s talent wasn’t always necessarily noticed or appreciated on a national scale. When playing for such a wretched team, when everything associated with it revolves around losing, it’s hard not to get lost in the sea of misery that surrounds you on a daily basis. But to Bay’s credit, he developed into a pretty solid all-around player, despite the lack of supporting talent around him, and until Boston came calling many Pirate fans were eager to have him as the face of the franchise’s future.
But like every half-decent player that puts on a Pirate uniform, Bay was traded away and his talents were put to use in Boston. Now, though, he’ll get another chance to have an impact on a big market team.
My advice for anyone who’s hesitant about what Citi Field has in store for Bay, is to take a look at his years in Pittsburgh, as PNC Park is very similar to Citi Field in terms of dimensions and design.
In his roughly five seasons in the ‘Burgh, Bay belted 149 home runs, knocked in just over 550 RBI, and even managed to swipe 50 bases, a number that was hampered by injury during his 2007 season. These figures are impressive in their own right, but even more so considering what he had around him in Pittsburgh.
The biggest factor here is that a lot of these numbers came at PNC Park, a stadium that’s extremely similar to that of Citi Field. As mainly a pull-hitter, the most important numbers to gauge are that of PNC Park and Citi Field’s left and center field dimesions, which are 325 to left, 383 left center, 410 deep left center and 399 at PNC Park, while Citi Field measures 335 to left, 364 to left center, 384 to deep left center and 408 to center field.
Wind issues aside, I think it’s safe to say that Citi Field is actually a more friendly hitting environment for Bay, especially the left-center power alley. Seeing a lot of Bay’s at-bats firsthand, I know that the 410 wall in left center at PNC kept Bay from having a handful or so more home runs, something that I think is important to keep in mind.
Verdict: Sure, the skeptics are out there, and their argument is easily backed by the fact that the Mets had the worst home run total of any team in the league last year. But I’d like more than one year’s worth of numbers before declaring a stadium anti-home run.
Besides, Bay has flourished in settings similar to Citi Field in the past, and not to mention that he’s coming off his most productive year yet (36 home runs, 119 RBI), numbers that could increase if the rest of the Met’s lineup can rebound from their disastrous 2009.
As a career .280 hitter, you know what you’re getting with Bay in terms of average, and I’m not going to rule out the possibility of 15-20 steals, especially if he can stay healthy all season.
No, to me, Bay has been consistent in every fantasy category, and entering the prime of his career, I think the jump to New York will actually be good for him. Doubt him all you want (ESPN projects 25 homeruns, CBSsports projects 26), but I think Bay will thrive under the bright lights of New York, and post about the same numbers he always has (.275, 110runs, 33 home runs, 115 RBI, 12 steals), making him a high-end fantasy option and surely someone that I’ll have full confidence in targeting come draft day.