Jason Bay knows what it’s like to be in a slump. Last season, he endured a 79-game stretch in the middle of the summer from April 29-July 30 during which he hit just .226. This season, he started cold out of the gate, as he was hitting as low as .224 through April 22 before going 4-for-7 in the first two games of the series with the Braves, which raised his batting average to a more respectable .262.
However, despite the encouraging signs from his recent hitting streak, he has yet to find his power stroke this season. Bay is still looking for his first home run of 2010 – he hit 36 home runs last season - and is slugging a mediocre .369 through the first 18 games of the season. It’s early, but why is Bay unable to bash the ball this season like he did last year?
A quick look at his power numbers by side of field shows one reason for his weak-hitting start this year. According to Fangraphs, in 2009, Bay slugged .912 to left field, well above the MLB average of .637 for right-handed batters, and his isolated power (which measures a hitter's pure power, in terms of the number of extra bases hit per at-bat) to left was .466, nearly 200 points better than the MLB average of .282 for righties. However, so far in 2010, Bay is slugging just .391 to left field and his isolated power to left is a tiny .043.
But there is some reason for optimism in these numbers, as Bay appears to be hitting for more power to center and the opposite field this year than in 2009.
Jason Bay Slug pct, Last 2 Yrs
His slugging percentage to right of .500 is nearly equal to that of last year’s .533 and his .923 slugging percentage to center in 2010 is way above his .670 mark in 2009.
A look at his batted ball profile by side of field adds another layer to the discussion of Bay’s power outage this season. According to Fangraphs, this season, only 8.7% of his balls hit in play to left field have been flyballs, which is a fraction of the MLB average of 23.6% for a righty and well below the 29.2% flyball percentage
FB/GB/LD pct, Last 2 Yrs
But that’s not the whole story…there is some more good news for Bay here. This season, he has a line drive rate of 30.4% to left which is much higher than the MLB average of 19.4% and also better than his line drive rate of 22.6% last year. Based on these numbers, it appears that Bay is actually pulling the ball with a lot of authority, but that has yet to translate into a high slugging percentage or any longballs.
Be sure to tune into ESPN at 8 ET to see if Bay can finally hit one over the fence, as the Mets and Braves face off on Sunday Night Baseball.