When the Mets signed Jason Bay in the offseason, one of the main factors that went into the decision was that the club felt that as a pull hitter, Bay would avoid the Citi Field woes that plagued David Wright in his first year in the new park. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Bay has hit just 6 HRs this year and seems to be having the same power outage that Wright had a season ago.
According to Baseball-Reference.com Bay pulled the ball 134 times last year, hit 192 up the middle and 47 to the opposite field. Just as important, he pulled 22 of his 36 homers. This year his numbers are 74 pulled, 150 up the middle and 37 to the opposite field. Bay is batting .378 on balls he pulls as well as balls he hits up the middle. The problem comes on balls he hits to RF, where he has a .171 average. And of Bay’s 6 HR, not one has been pulled.
According to FanGraphs, Bay has pulled 114 balls, hit 96 up the middle and 51 to the opposite field this season. While the numbers differ slightly, the results are the same. He hits .360 when he pulls the ball, .415 when he goes up the middle and .204 when he serves it to right field. Here the data has 1 HR to LF, 2 to CF and 3 to RF.
Where the zones are drawn can skew the data but two obvious conclusions can be reached:
1. Bay’s overall production has been killed by hitting more balls to the opposite field.
2. He has shown almost zero pull power.
If we dig deeper into the numbers, we find that Bay has an 88.2 FB% when he hits the ball to right field. Since fly balls result in the lowest average of any batted ball, it is easy to see why his AVG is so poor when he hits the ball the opposite way. Bay has a ridiculous 0.04 GB/FB ratio when he hits the ball to right field.
Conversely, we see when he pulls the ball, Bay has a 3.35 GB/FB ratio, as he has a 58.8 GB% when he pulls the ball and a 17.5 FB%. That explains how he has a .360 AVG but only a .439 SLG when he pulls the ball.
Bay’s hard hit balls to left have been ground shots between the third baseman and shortstop, not balls landing into the left field bleachers.
According to the “Hot Zones” chart over at Fox Sports, a 3X3 grid that shows Bay’s AVG on balls in various sectors, he is getting eaten alive on balls inside and ones low and away. Click on the link to see the actual chart, which is copied below in straight numerical form.
.214 .188 .294 .188 .542 .288 .167 .381 .172
The Maple Street Press 2010 Mets Annual ran this same 3X3 grid for 2009 and here’s what Bay’s chart showed:
.333 .200 .273 .306 .516 .250 .267 .423 .240
Why are pitchers more effective versus Bay on inside pitches this year? Back in June, FanGraphs’ Jack Moore wrote the following:
What we’re seeing with Bay seems to be one of the nastiest combinations of park effects, regression to the mean, aging, and simple poor luck that I can recall a power hitter encountering.
A week later, Moore’s colleague Pat Andriola suggested, with screen shots to emphasize his points, that Bay was holding his hands lower, standing more upright and batting with a slightly more closed stance than a season ago.
Whatever the reasons, the Mets’ decision to chase Bay over Matt Holliday in the offseason is looking like a poor choice. A year younger and a more athletic player, Holliday has a .305/.382/.532 line this season, a 165-point lead in OPS over Bay. Furthermore, he has 19 HR this season, three times as many as the guy the Mets picked for his HR bat. According to BBRef, 10 of his 19 HR have gone to LF and he has an .841 SLG when he pulls the ball.
Perhaps Holliday would have suffered the same fate as Bay if he would have wound up as the Mets LF in 2010. It is something we can never know for sure. What we do know is that Bay has been bad, nearly as bad as the studies the Mets performed that indicated Bay was better suited to succeed in Citi Field than Holliday. For what it is worth, in his first two games this year in Citi, Holliday is 3-for-10 with a double and a HR.