9:01 am Jul. 13, 2012
Who needs Jason Bay, right?
The Mets are 46-40, locked in a five-team scrum for the two National League wild card spots. And they've done it without the services of Bay, their second-most expensive player at $16 million this year, for most of the season.
Bay has missed action first with a rib cage injury, then with his second concussion in his three years as a Met. He is on the comeback trail now, playing in a rehab game with St. Lucie Thursday night.
But if the Mets are to continue their surprising push toward a playoff spot, Bay could be a large part of it.
Consider that while the Mets are third in the National League in runs scored, much of that damage has been done against right-handed pitchers. The Mets are third in the National League with an O.P.S. of .751 against righties. Against lefties, they are 12th, at .685.
That imbalance is even more improbable, considering that the team's best hitter by far, David Wright, is posting an O.P.S. of 1.017 against lefties. (He's at .996 against righties, too--that's why he's been the National League's most valuable player so far.) Their second-best hitter, Scott Hairston, has done most of his damage against lefties, with a .952 O.P.S. against them and nine of his 12 home runs. and Ruben Tejada, their third-best hitter, is at .914 against lefties.
Despite that production from Wright, Hairston and Tejada, the Mets are still susceptible to left-handed pitching. The rest of the Mets are that bad against lefties, from catcher Josh Thole (.613 O.P.S. against lefties), to Ike Davis (.537) and Daniel Murphy (.633), and essentially all of their outfield pieces. Consider that against lefties, Lucas Duda has a .588 O.P.S. and that same glove. Jordanny Valdespin is at .631 against lefties. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is at .492, which is pitcher-batting territory.
With these kinds of massive splits, it is worth thinking about the Mets with six outfield slots, not three. There's left field, center field and right field against righties. And there are the same three positions, but against lefties.
Against righties, the Mets can deploy Duda in right, Valdespin in left and Nieuwenhuis in center. It's not ideal defensively, but Valdespin and Nieuwenhuis are competent with the gloves, and all three are above league-average against right-handed pitching.
Against lefties, the Mets can use Hairston, Andres Torres (who is at .788 against lefties, .493 against righties) and... they haven't really had any third option.
Which is where Jason Bay comes in. If you forget for a moment the fact that he's so massively underperformed in the context of his star-leve salary, Bay has hit decently against left-handed pitching, even in his time with the Mets.
Bay is at .776 O.P.S. against lefties in his truncated 2012 season. He hit them at a .918 O.P.S. clip in 2011. And he was a respectable .750 O.P.S. performer against them in 2010.
For a team with a very limited budget for additional acquisitions, and holes in the bullpen and starting rotation, Jason Bay really needs to be that right-handed bat that the Mets have been missing. If he is, the Mets can make six players fit into three positions.
It's no more improbable than much of what has already transpired this season for the Mets.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
CC Sabathia is expected back on Monday. Joba Chamberlain may be back sooner than later. David Aardsma could be a while longer.
Marcus Camby will wear 23, Jason Kidd will wear 5.
The Nets and Bobcats are pursuing Kris Humphries, with both offering him three years at around eight million dollars per season.
The Red Bulls prepare for a three-game homestand in seven days, starting with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, and at something approaching full strength.
The New York Cosmos will start playing in the N.A.S.L., the soccer level one division below M.L.S., beginning in 2013.