Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back To The Futile: Jason Bay

Last year, Adam Dunn had an historically bad season for the Chicago White Sox.  In 415 at-bats, Dunn batted .159 with 11 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 177 times.  It was the lowest batting average of any player in major league history with a minimum of 400 at-bats, breaking the record set by Rob Deer, who hit .179 in 1991 for the Detroit Tigers in 438 at-bats.

Over a century ago, in 1909, Bill Bergen of the Brooklyn Superbas (as the Dodgers were called back then) hit .139 in 346 at-bats.  This was nothing new for Bergen, who quite possibly was the worst hitter of any non-pitcher in history, batting .170 in 3,028 career at-bats for Cincinnati and Brooklyn from 1901 to 1911.

Why is this relevant to the Mets of today?  Because Jason Bay now has something to shoot for.

Jason Bay is looking down because that's where his batting average is.

Jason Bay came to New York after a year in which he hit 36 HR and drove in 119 runs for the Boston Red Sox.  He is now in the third year of a four-year contract.  He has yet to reach 36 HR and 119 RBI for the Mets.  I'm talking about cumulative here, as he only has 23 HR and 115 RBI in over 1,000 plate appearances for the Mets spanning 2½ seasons.

His power isn't the only attribute of his game that has faded over the years.  In his final season with the Red Sox, Bay batted .267.  That dropped to .259 in his first year with the Mets.  Last year, Bay's average fell to .245.  And this year?  Well, let's just say Bay's 2012 campaign has made Mario Mendoza look like Mr. Wade Boggs.

Although injuries and days off have kept Bay off the field for all but 41 games this season, he has still accumulated 134 at-bats, collecting 21 hits for an average of .157.  How disappointing has Bay been this season?  He's been so bad that nearly 40% of his hits came during a seven-game hitting streak from April 13-21.  Since coming off the disabled list on June 8, Bay has nine hits.  That's 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.  And that's in 84 at-bats.

Jason Bay will probably not reach 400 at-bats, as Rob Deer did 21 years ago when he set the record for lowest batting average that was broken by Adam Dunn last year.  But he should definitely reach 200 at-bats and has an outside chance of reaching 300.  Should Bay remain under .200 at season's end, he'd be joining a club that has very few members in Mets history.

Since the Mets' inaugural season in 1962, only ten batters have hit below .200 while accumulating 200 at-bats in a season.  Those players are:

  • Al Moran (1963): .193 average, 331 AB
  • Choo Choo Coleman (1963): .178 average, 247 AB
  • Bobby Klaus (1965): .191 average, 288 AB
  • Chris Cannizzaro (1965): .183 average, 251 AB
  • Jerry Grote (1967): .195 average, 344 AB
  • Al Weis (1968): .172 average, 274 AB
  • John Milner (1975): .191 average, 220 AB
  • Doug Flynn (1977): .191 average, 282 AB
  • Bud Harrelson (1977): .178 average, 269 AB
  • Dave Kingman (1983): .198 average, 248 AB

Ten players.  Ten awful seasons at the plate.  But none of those ten players hit under .172.  Jason Bay is 66 at-bats away from joining this group and his batting average is only .157.  Think of it this way.  If Jason Bay hits .197 over his next 66 at-bats (which seems to be beyond him right now), his average would only climb to .170, which would still be the lowest batting average of any Met with at least 200 at-bats in a season.  He'd have to hit .288 over his next 66 at-bats just to reach an even .200.

Let's take it a bit further.  Only two players (Al Moran, Jerry Grote) failed to hit .200 in a season where they accumulated over 300 at-bats, but no one has hit under .193 with that many at-bats.  Barring injury or extensive pine time, Jason Bay has an outside chance of making it to 300 at-bats.  But he would need to hit .223 (37-for-166) just to equal Al Moran's .193 batting average for the season.

It's not your armpits, Jason.  It's you that stinks.

For nearly half a century, Al Moran has held the team record for lowest batting average in a season with a minimum of 300 at-bats.  In addition, it's been 44 years since Al Weis posted the lowest batting average for any Met with at least 200 at-bats.  Not since Dave Kingman nearly three decades ago has a Met with 200 at-bats hit under the Mendoza Line.  All that could change in 2012, courtesy of Jason Bay.

It's true that Mets fans don't dislike Bay as much as they should because he gives his best effort and hustles all the time.  But right now, his best effort is earning him a spot among the worst hitters in Mets history.  And if he doesn't turn things around soon, he's going to hustle his way to Mets infamy.  

Jason Bay used to be a good player.  Now he is the picture of futility at Citi Field.  The end of his contract can't come soon enough for this Mets fan.

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