Jason Bay Needs the Ike Davis Treatment

By Matt Musico

This was exactly what we were afraid of. Jason Bay returned to the Mets lineup on Friday against the Yankees, a team that he has historically played well against, and went 0-for-11 with two strikeouts in the three games. Although he only has 68 at-bats on the season, these three straight hitless games produced a 43-point drop in his batting average, now down to .197. Questions have been flying as to how long Terry Collins should wait before he decides to platoon Bay…but I have the answer: tomorrow.

It’s understandable that Bay needs a couple of games to get himself used to the speed of a Major League game again, but this transition could have been easier if he made a rehab appearance in Triple-A before he returned instead of staying in Class-A St. Lucie. He went from facing Minor Leaguers fresh out of college or high school that may never even get a cup of coffee in the Majors, to a Yankee pitching staff that is playing some of their best baseball of late. So, him struggling is not a surprise to me. However, Terry Collins and the Mets can’t afford to keep plugging a struggling Bay into the lineup, especially when they’re also penciling in Ike Davis, who is still hitting under .160.

If you could imagine it, Bay has gotten even worse at the plate compared to his first two years with the Mets. In 2010 and 2011, Bay

has walked at an 11% rate while striking out around 22% of his at-bats. Combine that with a slugging percentage under .400, and there was a big problem, obviously. So far in 2012, things have went downhill, even with his short string of productive play right before his injury at the end of April. The Mets left fielder is walking 8.8% of the time, while striking out almost 28% of his at-bats, and is slugging at an underwhelming mark of .377.

Since his sample size is small, I do expect his K% and BB% to even out more to what he’s done in his previous two seasons, but it’s his discipline at the plate that is more concerning. Currently, Bay has seen about 48% of pitches against him fall in the strike zone, which is consistent with what he’s seen in his career, while the rate he sees a first pitch strike (54.4%) and swing-and-miss ratio (9.2%) is also in line with his career norms. However, it looks as though he’s not being aggressive enough with balls in the strike zone, and when he does, he isn’t hitting it hard.

Bay has swung at 20% of pitches out of the strike zone, which is a 7% improvement from 2011, but is swinging at only 52% of pitches in the zone, which is an 8% decrease from the year prior. Overall, his swing percentage of 34.7% is the lowest it’s ever been in his career. In his productive 2009 with the Red Sox (36 HR, 119 RBI), he was a fly ball hitter, as he was throughout most of his career. Now, he’s continued to put the ball on the ground more than he ever has before (46.5%) and his line drive rate (11.6%) is the worst it’s ever been, previously never any lower than 17.6%.

So, it’s pretty clear to see that Bay should not be an everyday player until he can show that he’s ready to take on that load. The only opportunity he should get is as a platoon player, splitting time with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is hitting .318 vs. RHP this year, but only .188 against LHP. In my humble opinion, I don’t think Bay should be seeing the field at all, but since there is no possibility of him getting sent to the minors like Ike could be, he needs some sort of playing time for the opportunity to snap out of his 2.5 year slump.

What do you think Terry Collins should do with Jason Bay?