Bay, Vazquez, and Pressure

Over the winter, both New York clubs made some big acquisitions – the Mets splurged for slugging outfielder Jason Bay, while the Yankees gave up some young talent to acquire the final year of Javier Vazquez‘s contract to solidify their rotation. So far, neither have lived up to expectations, as Bay’s power is MIA and Vazquez has struggled with more things than I have time to list here.

Any time a player struggles in the Big Apple, they always run the risk of getting labeled as a guy who just can’t handle the pressure. Vazquez, in fact, already carries that label, considering that he flopped with the Yankees back in 2004, the first time Brian Cashman traded for him. That he was so bad in April didn’t do anything to dispel the notion that he simply lacked the necessary personality to play well in New York.

Now some people – including one unnamed former GM who thinks trading Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt is a good idea – are attaching that same label to Bay, suggesting that his lack of production is a direct result of the home fans expressing their frustration with his lack of power. There is  just one slight problem with these labels – both Bay and Vazquez have played better at home than on the road, and in Bay’s case, the difference is enormous.

Bay is hitting .308/.406/.508 at Citi Field, but just .246/.333/.333 on the road. He has twice as many extra base hits in front of those frustrated fans as he does in front of ambivalent road crowds. If he was hitting as well away from New York as he was at home, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The same is true of Vazquez, though not to the same extent. He is posting a  4.48 xFIP at home versus 4.72 on the road, with neither number representing his previous abilities. The same was true in 2004, when Vazquez pitched better in Yankee Stadium than he did away from the Bronx.

Sometimes a slump is just a slump. Guys slump in New York just like they do in Milwaukee, San Diego, or St. Louis. Perhaps we should avoid slagging a guy’s intestinal fortitude when he is performing better in front of the same fans and media that are supposed to be scaring him into a slump.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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wobatus
Guest
wobatus

Not that I lend credence to the idea, but is it really supposed to be that a player can’t play in front of New York crowds, or that the overall supposed pressure of playing for a ny team, living up to a big contract, etc., is effecting their play? Does it matter whether that is on the road or at home? One would think it is the overall production and not necessarily the home/road split. beltran also didn’t have a great first year at the plate in NY and was great after that. I tend to agree that it is just a slump. A lot of things could be effecting Bay’s power outage. Perhaps like Wright did this year Bay will bounce back. Wright and 2006 Beltran are/were a tad younger than Bay will be next year so I’ll hope it is not an extended power slump a la Brian Giles goes to SD.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.

It’s New York exceptionalism, and they find a way to fit it to however the player is failing to perform. Of course, Bay did produce quite a bit last season in Boston…

J Bravo
Guest
J Bravo

It must have something to do with team chemistry. Only explanation.

wobatus
Guest
wobatus

I just don’t think that, if there is anything to it at all, that it would necessarily have to manifest itself only when the player is in NY itself. The overall production is down; that he is doing better in Citifield may just be a fluke. Maybe they are playing him too deep there. :) The beat writers still follow him when he is out of town, the fans are still watching on tv and calling WFAN, etc.

This is all dignifying it too much, I suppose. Probably just slumping.

B N
Guest
B N

I find it both funny and sad that somehow the NY “pressure” is being used to blame Bay’s performance. I mean… the guy is hitting 0.300 with a 0.400 OBP at home, but 100 pts worse on the road. I wouldn’t call that caving under pressure. I’d call it separation anxiety.

And for the homers, I am not sure why anybody is surprised? Like… do these people not read any analysis? “But the man hit 30 HR last year! Clearly he will hit more when he is brought to a much larger park and surrounded by worse hitters!” I mean, this (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/316530-jason-bay-enters-a-hitters-nightmare) indicates that bay should expect a 30-40% reduction in home runs at home. His 3 HR at home fits right into that pace.

The only strange thing is that he has only one HR on the road, but you have to think that’s one of those random-chance things. The one thing I will predict is that by the end of the season, I’ll bet Bay has more HR on the road than at home.

B N
Guest
B N

On second thought, scrap that. I agree with Bravo. They probably need more washed up veterans. Is it too late to trade for Kerry Wood and Mike Sweeney?

wobatus
Guest
wobatus

BN, citifield actaully had a positive HR effect last year, massively negative this year. But Rod Barajas came in and didn’t have a problem hitting homers at citi. Ike davis either. It’s harder, and Wright got effected, but at least he is homering on the road. It may be, as someone else suggested, that bay is pressing on the road. maybe he is suffering the ‘first year in citi” effect that Wright suffered last year.

But I don’t think that just because he is doing better overall at home than on the road invalidates the “pressure” argument (such as it is-I don’t think his play has been so bad as to suggest anything but random chance and Citifield). But if there is something to the idea that he is pressing and suffering for it, that just because he is hitting better in citifield then on the road refutes the argument. It is not fear of the actual new york crowd, but more internalized. What will people think if I don’t perform? That I got fat and lazy with my big paycheck, that can’t take NY pressure (see, it becomes self-fulfilling). Do we think he is so stupid as to not realize the press and fans know how he performs when he is on the road?

Almost any player who says he doesn’t know or care about what the fans think is lying. I’d guess.

I agree with the statement that his performance is not being hindered by the pressure of playing in NY. But I don’t agree that the fact he is doing better at home than on the road refutes the statement.

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