To say Jason Bay has had a fairly quiet start to his time as a Met would be an understatement. The prized offseason acquisition has been as good as invisible in the heart of Jerry Manuel's lineup, struggling to find his groove at the plate.
If Citi Field is the ballpark where home runs go to die, Jason Bay is the hitter who has killed innings that once start with so much promise. Well, him and Jeff "4-6-3" Francoeur.
Bay has had a 30-game on-base streak, a 14-game hit streak, and a six-game home run streak in his multi-million dollar career, so he certainly knows how to catch on fire. But when you pay for the ying you get a complementary side order of yang, and Bay remains one of the more streakier players on the roster.
He can bat .385 over the course of two weeks, only to bat .081 in the next 11 games. He can build up an eight-game hit streak only to go 1-for-21 over the next two series. Likewise, he can bat .321 in one month, and .260 in another, or go 14 games without an RBI and six consecutive games with an extra-base hit.
There is no denying that Bay is struggling right now. He has just two multi-hit games in the team’s first 15, and he only has three extra-base hits in 54 at-bats. His .241 batting average is only overlooked because of the terrible .315 slugging percentage, his three pitiful runs batted in are fewer than half of the league average, and only one of those RBI hits has given the Mets the lead in a game.
Newsday’s David Lennon said Bay's homerless drought has reached 108 plate appearances, over 26 games, dating back to last season, and it is the longest of his career.
For those keeping track, it came on Sept. 21 in Kansas City. Ironically it was the fourth consecutive game where Bay went yard. Little did the Mets know that they would still be waiting for his next.
Jerry Manuel has already batted Bay anywhere from fourth to sixth, with the apparent experiment to bat him in the No. 5 spot coming to an end two games into the season.
Now there is talk of batting him second in an attempt to get him pitches to hit to essentially force him to fight his way out of the slump. He wasn’t exactly known for making productive outs last year in Boston, and I am not convinced that throwing him behind Reyes is the best idea.
Of the 916 games he has started, only one has been batting second. In fact, all but nine of them have been between third and sixth. If Reyes is on base, you would want Bay to see pitches and give Reyes the best chance of swiping a bag. This is fine, but Bay is only a .213 hitter when he falls behind in the count. By contrast, he is a .380 batter when he comes out swinging on the first pitch, and a .338 hitter when the count is in his favor.
In addition, you want Bay to shoot the ball the other way, especially if there is a gap on the right side of the infield. Right-handed Bay, though, is a pull hitter, meaning balls end up in left field. The difference in his batting average when he shoots the ball to the opposite field is almost 200 points fewer. It is also worth nothing that Bay is striking out more now than at any other point in his career.
His sample size in New York is obviously slim, but his failure to make contact is the biggest downfall this season so far. Between failing to protect your baserunners and not making productive outs when he does fail to get a hit, there’s no reason to think Bay will flourish in the No. 2 spot.
Yes, his power numbers will be hampered somewhat by Citi Field’s dimensions, but he has started the year hitting just 25 percent of pitches in the air. Putting it in perspective, he hasn’t hit fewer than 40 percent in a season since 2003.
The Mets need Bay to find his groove and become the dangerous fastball-hitting slugger that they know he can be. As bad as the Mets have been, they are still 6-9.
When Bay comes out of his slump—which you know will happen—the Mets offense will erupt with it.
The only question is can Jerry Manuel hold onto his job long enough to benefit from the power bat that we all know Bay will soon bring to the party?
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