Back-to-back multi-hit games have Jason Bay’s OPS up to .651 for the season. Earlier I wrote that it was time for the team to move on from Bay. I still believe that’s the direction the Mets need to go but right now Bay should continue to play to see if this is the beginning of a hot streak or merely some type of dead-cat bounce.
The main objection to benching/releasing Bay has been: Who will the Mets play instead? With Lucas Duda already installed as a regular to replace Carlos Beltran, there is no obvious answer. But while not obvious, there is an effective solution already on the roster. How would an OPS upgrade from .651 to .823 sound for left field?
Somehow, someway along the line – platooning became a dirty word in baseball. It makes sense from the players’ POV. If you’re a full-time player you should make more money than a guy in a time share. But from a team or the fans’ POV, platooning is a great way to get production at a discount. There are many players who can hit well when they have the platoon advantage but are replacement-level when they don’t.
Perhaps platooning went out of favor when pitching staffs moved from 10 to 12 players. But in the National League, that leaves a five-man bench. With five reserves, it still should be easy to platoon at two positions. How many teams in the NL could institute a platoon and immediately upgrade their offense? When the Phillies, the best team in the league, could improve with a platoon over one of their regulars (Raul Ibanez) it makes sense that the rest of the league could, as well.
But as Mets fans, we’re not interested in improving the rest of the league. We want the Mets to optimize their resources and put the best product on the field that they can. And it’s very likely that the Mets can do better than Bay in the outfield.
The sticking point for a lot of fans with this idea is that no one particularly likes Hairston or Harris. But if you accept the idea of platooning, you should be able to find players that are more fan-friendly. And it’s very likely that the platoon could play right field, allowing Duda to move over to left field where he would be less of a defensive liability.
We saw Sandy Alderson release $18 million in salaries when he cut ties with Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez before the season started. Those two represented the sunkest of sunk costs. At some point Bay will be at a similar position. Perhaps since the fans don’t hate him, he can remain as a bench option and not have to be released.
But unless Bay consistently hits an outside pitch or an offering below mid-thigh, it seems unlikely that he will post an .823 OPS like the Hairston/Harris platoon. Bay should get the remainder of the 2011 season but if at the end of the year he still has an OPS below .700, the Mets should upgrade with a low-cost platoon for 2012.
Teams are always looking for the next thing. First it was players with low AVG but high OBPs that were all of the rage. Then it was guys who played great defense who were overlooked. Perhaps the next new thing will be something that’s not new at all. Guys who can rake from one side of the plate but who are not full-time players are the new market inefficiency!
If that’s the case, maybe there will be hope for Nick Evans after all.