New York Mets Staying Afloat in Spite of Jason Bay's Lack of Offense

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IMay 12, 2011

NEW YORK - JULY 07:  Jason Bay #44 of the New York Mets bats against the Cincinnati Reds on July 7, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Reds defeated the Mets 3-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I read an interesting statistic earlier: The New York Mets are 11-5 in the 16 games that Jason Bay has played this season, but 5-15 in the 20 contests he has missed.

This is such a misleading interpretation of his value to the club in the first six weeks of the season.

Yes, the team has hit better when he's been in the lineup, but I believe the marginal difference in run production (roughly half a run per game) is in spite of what Bay has been doing at the dish.

After starting the year on the DL with a strained left rib cage, the outfielder actually looked fresh when he returned.

He hit safely in his first six games (all Mets victories), but he also struck out in a third of his at-bats and only plated runs in one of those six contests.

I would say that it was Ike Davis carrying the team during that span when Bay came back. He homered in three straight games in the middle of his 11-game hit streak and over Bay's first six games back, Ike was hitting .500 (11-for-22).

Since then, Bay is 4-for-38 (.105), the second-worst batting average over that two-week spell in the whole of the Majors.

While the strikeouts aren't too much of an issue, considering he has always been a high-whiff type of guy, everything else is a cause for concern.

Even minimizing the impact of the relatively small sample size, there's no good way to look at Bays' .213 average or .311 slugging percentage. He has four extra-base hits in 61 at-bats and his power swing looks to be in even worse shape than 12 months ago.

On a lesser note, Bay is also 0-for-his-last-14 over his last four games; only once in his nine-year career has he gone five consecutive games without a hit.

One of his problems is his inability to do anything against a good changeup. Another issue is the fact that he appears to be rolling over more pitches and grounding everything into the dirt.

Where does this stem from? Maybe the fact that he's swinging at more pitches outside the zone or possibly because he's missing more pitches that are in the zone. I suppose it's a case of the chicken and the egg.

We know that Bay is a pull hitter, so it follows that he should be looking inside, especially ahead in the count. Unfortunately, he's been hacking at too many pitches up and away, especially fastballs from right-handers, that he has no real hope of doing much with.

At least last year, he was also able to go to center and right-center field.

Against southpaws, he has been better at laying off the bad pitches inside and down-and-away, but sinkers on the outside half of the plate have been giving him problems.

In fact, anything from lefties running away from him has been hard for him to handle.

Bay probably won't be this horrid all year, but he's definitely falling into the "distinctly average" category. His batting average, OBP and walk-to-strikeout ratio have been on the slide for the last two years, and he's becoming little more than an overpaid left-fielder.

Bay at his best is a joy to watch, but so far there's been nothing to think he'll ever be worth the $16 million a year the Mets invested in him as a free agent 18 months ago.

Sandy Alderson looked pretty good with Bay in the No. 5 spot in mid-April, but the Mets successes of late have been more to do with things outside of Bay's control, such as the bullpen.

I'd much rather flip flop Bay and Ike in the lineup while he's struggling. I know Beltran isn't the player he once was in the No. 4 spot, but I'd much rather not see other teams pitch around Davis to get to Josh Thole, Jason Pridie or whichever other hitter the Mets have batting seventh.

We know what Bay can do, but for now, we'll just have to ride this rough start out and hope that he finds his groove again soon. The Mets need his bat in the lineup and with injuries piling up, the team can't afford for him to take too long to get back on track.