Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jason Bay to the Mets

Yesterday, Jason Bay reportedly agreed to a four year deal with the New York Mets that could be worth anywhere between $66 million and $80 million, this according to the New York Post.  It won't have too much of an impact on the projection we had already published when we didn't know where he would end up.  The Mets' new Citi Field was pretty good for right handed home run hitters last year (+10% on home runs) but we're talking about 81 games worth of data and like the new Yankee Stadium, having that few games of data makes us far less confident about those park effect numbers than other parks for which we have at least several years of results.

Our Bay projection, where we expect him to hit in the .260s with 25-30 home runs, 80-85 R and 80+ RBI and close to 10 steals, might look like we're pretty down on his chances to maintain the even better seasons he put up the past two years.  It's not so much that we doubt his ability, particularly in the power category, as that players his age (31) typically do see an increased risk of injury and we have to account for that in our forecast.  So, his projected playing time is lower than the past couple of years.  For most players, once they get into their thirties, regardless of what they are getting paid, the greater the chances of not staying healthy for a full season.

There is one area Bay has demonstrated a recent decline in ability and that is at making contact.  Here's the percentage of times he made contact per at bat over his big league career, excluding his 2003 debut season where he had just 87 at bats:

2004 - 69%
2005 - 76%
2006 - 73%
2007 - 74%
2008 - 76%
2009 - 69%

I don't believe that his 2009 contact rate was a complete negative fluke.  He's probably a little better than we saw last year at making contact but the decline still has to get our attention and looks like the beginning of reaching the downward slope of the age curve on making contact.  Considering that his combined batting average is .267 the past three years, we won't be too far out on a limb projecting a similar such average for 2010.

Regardless of any negatives, if he manages to play as much as he did last year, he's still capable of hitting 30 home runs and achieving double digits in steals again and that will be about what everyone expects from him, including his new team.