Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jason Bay: The Human Windmill

For many years, environmentalists have been looking for energy sources that do not consume fuel or contribute to the excessive amounts of pollution in the air. One of the energy sources that satisfy those criteria is wind. And one of the best wind generators in recent times is right here in New York, wearing #44 for the Mets.

That's right, Mets fans. Jason Bay's daily strikeouts might be bad for the Mets, but they're quite good for the planet. If scientists can find a way to harness the wind generated by his repeated swings and misses, perhaps our leftfielder can actually earn his previously undeserved salary after all.

Since his last day off on July 1, Bay has been generating great quantities of wind energy. In 15 games, he has struck out 20 times in 58 at-bats. Over the same stretch of games, he is hitting .155 (9-for-58) with no home runs, which explains his barely-there .207 slugging percentage.

By comparison, over that same stretch, Johan Santana is batting .222, has picked up a home run and has a .556 slugging percentage. Basically, Johan Santana has been a better power threat in July than our $66 million man.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Jerry Manuel has decided to give Jason Bay the night off tonight in the first game of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium. In fact, all three members of the Not-So-Killer B's (Bay, Barajas, Beltran) will spend tonight's game on another B - the bench.

Jason Bay has never been a great contact hitter. In fact, he's struck out at least 129 times every full season he's been in the majors, including a career-high 162 whiffs last year with the Red Sox. However, he's also never looked so helpless at the plate, where the only positive Mets fans can draw from a Bay at-bat is that he hustles out every ground ball that more often than not becomes an out anyway.

Carlos Beltran had a subpar year in his first season with the Mets after signing a rich contract prior to the 2005 season. However, he was consistent from month to month, even if that consistency was below his standards. He also heated up in July, batting .290 and driving in 17 runs, which represented his highest monthly total that year.

Unlike Beltran in 2005, Bay has not had a July to remember. In fact, Bay has gone from consistently bad to consistently worse. After hitting a commendable .303 with 18 runs scored and 15 RBI in May, his numbers dipped to .250 with 11 runs scored and 13 RBI in June, followed by his forgettable July, in which he has hit .169 with three runs scored and 8 RBI (half of those eight runs batted in came in one game, on July 4 against the Nationals). And of course, there are those increasing strikeout totals...

It's not just THAT he's striking out, it's WHEN he's striking out. With men on base, Bay is only hitting .224. He's also more apt to go down swinging than go up hitting, as evidenced by his 49 strikeouts with men on base as opposed to his 36 hits in those situations. Similarly, with runners in scoring position, Bay morphs from run producer to windmill. In those situations, Bay has struck out 32 times in 94 at-bats, while picking up only 24 hits. That's right, he strikes out 34% of the time when he bats with runners in scoring position.

Perhaps Bay is just taking a full year to get used to playing in New York. Beltran had a poor first season in New York, then followed it up with an MVP-caliber season in 2006. However, at least Beltran showed some signs of life after the midpoint of the season. Bay has yet to do so. In fact, for every step he appears to take forward, he follows that up with two steps back (and probably a strikeout or four).

The world might have a use for Jason Bay's wind-generating ability when he comes to bat. But we Mets fans have a better use for a player that has contributed very little in clutch situations and has underperformed in almost every offensive category. Perhaps benchwarmer is a better position for Jason Bay than left field. Tonight, that's the position he will play. If he doesn't want to become a regular there, he'd better stop being the Human Windmill and start becoming the hitter we thought we were getting.

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