Jason Bay is on pace to hit just 12 home runs this season. Yes, 12. Considering he has averaged 30 over the last six seasons, that would be miserable—an almost shameful return on the Mets' investment, right?
In many respects, Bay has changed his game since coming to Citi Field. He is utilizing the gaps in the alleys to drive the ball for extra-base hits, and he is being a lot more aggressive on the basepaths.
Still, like I've said before, the Mets didn't bring him over from Boston to bat .265 and steal 20 bases. His walk rate and strikeout rate are both down in proportion with each other, which has kept his BB:K ratio in line with career averages.
Interestingly, though, he is hitting more line drives than in previous years, and he is hitting almost as many fly balls as he did in '09 when he hit 36 home runs. The problem is that only 5.6 percent of his fly balls are going out of the yard, compared with almost 20 percent 12 months ago.
Yes, it's a bigger ballpark, and yes, he needs time to adjust, but he is digging himself into a hole. He is over-pressing and trying to force too much at the plate. He is swinging at more pitches outside the zone (26.2 percent) than ever before, rather than waiting for a pitch he can drive hard or put an uppercut swing on.
I simply don't think he has confidence right now to sit back on the ball as long as he needs to to really generate the momentum needed to put a home run swing on the ball.
If the Mets win 95 games and make it to the playoffs, people won't care too much whether Bay hits six home runs or 26 home runs. There will be massive questions in the offseason about just what they are paying him for, but if his power is the only real thing that takes a hit in 2010, fans will accept it more if he helps the team win.
Right now the boos are understandable, but when I spoke to him last, he said that he knew as much as anyone that he had some things to work on. The funny thing is that his peripheral numbers, home runs aside, have remained pretty constant, so there's every chance he will bounce back in the second half.
He will have a little more protection near the meat of the lineup when Carlos Beltran returns, and it's only a matter of when Bay starts to hit, rather than if.
He's not going to get 30 home runs, but anything in the 18-20 range isn't as far fetched as it might seem. He needs one home run every fifth or sixth game to reach these numbers, and considering he has gone deep once every 4.9 games as a full-time player, it certainly could happen.
Odds of Bay hitting 20 home runs: 65 percent