Jason Bay’s Swing

Jason Bay is having a really bad year. Considering his large contract he’s been given by the Mets, his 125 wRC+, combined with mediocre defense at a non-premium position, is simply unacceptable. The question, however, is what has gotten into Bay to have him drop so dramatically? No prognosticators saw this coming, and the Mets brass has to be shocked at the power outage, which Jack Moore chronicled wonderfully last week.

I think we may learn a little bit from Bay’s swing. Let’s take a peak at his stance from July of 2009 on the Red Sox and June of 2010 on the Mets:


So you can definitely see a difference here despite the slightly different camera angles. On the Sox, Bay had his hands farther up and out, his knees bent more, and his stance slightly more open. Given his swing, this is the better approach, as Bay is giving himself the proper momentum to come through on the ball, flicking his wrists to generate power. Bay doesn’t have a typical swing where he whips the bat around all the way; he’s more of the Richie Sexson/Chase Utley school of hitting which requires a flick of the wrists.

Here is Bay getting ready to swing as the pitch is coming in, already released from the pitcher’s hand:


The differences here are more subtle. On the Sox, Bay is less crouched (see how his knees are more bent on the Mets and his rear end is sticking out more). On the Mets, his front foot isn’t as parallel to his back while his hands are farther down, meaning he’ll generate less power with his swing. The main takeaway is that he is more geared back for a strong swing earlier, but now is more flat-footed, giving him no chance to drive the ball on the outside part of the plate with any serious power.

Finally, look how far away from the plate he is on the Mets. It doesn’t look like much, but that ~1 inch or so can mean the world. Because Bay stands so far away from the plate, there’s no way for him to generate any power to right field. He’ll either swing through a pitch on the outside corner, pop it up to right, or roll it over for an easy grounder. Here are his stats when hitting the ball to the right side:

2010: .188/.176/.375, 35 wRC+
2009: .267/.267/.533, 103 wRC+
2008: .256/.247/.522, 92 wRC+

However, if we look at the numbers to right field a little closer, we can learn some more:

2010: 8.8% LD, 5.9% GB, 85.3% FB, 24.1% IFFB, 3.4% HR/FB, .152 BABIP
2009: 9.8% LD, 11.5% GB, 78.7% FB, 20.8% IFFB, 8.3% HR/FB, .214 BABIP
2008: 8.6% LD, 9.7% GB, 81.7% FB, 13.2% IFFB, 6.6% HR/FB, .205 BABIP

I think that Bay has gotten slightly unlucky on his balls in play to the right side this year, but ther’s good reason for such a .156 BABIP. One out of every four balls he hits to the right side is a popup, which is basically an automatic out. That percentage is almost double of his 2008 numbers. Bay’s groundball rate is also extremely low, and grounders have a higher BABIP on average than fly balls. Right field at Citi Field is cavernous, and for Bay to hit flies 85% of the time he hits to right field is a death wish.

The power droppage to right field, and overall for that matter, is stunning, but not necessarily shocking. The change in Bay’s stance isn’t overwhelming, but it may be a marginal cause for his weak numbers for the season. Only time will tell if Bay can get back into form.



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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


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NEPP
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NEPP
6 years 1 month ago

The really funny thing is this:

Home: .932 OPS
Road: .667 OPS

Citi Field has nothing to do with his dropoff this year. It might be dampening his power numbers (3 HR at home, 1 on the road) but he’s still slugging .524 at home.

Lunkwill Fook
Guest
Lunkwill Fook
6 years 1 month ago

I really believe there is some sort of adjustment period when a player goes from wildly varying ball parks. Look at David Wright last year versus this year. A lot of it seems to be figuring out how to deal with two different environments and realizing that your gameplan has to be different for each. Bay seems to have figured out how to get it down in CitiField but the transition has made his game on the road suffer. Perhaps he eventually puts the two together?

Mitch
Guest
Mitch
6 years 1 month ago

I’m not 100% convinced his stance his really so different; the top photo looks to be from flatter camera angle than the bottom.

I definitely agree that his hand position and bat angle have changed, though.

Rich
Guest
Rich
6 years 1 month ago

same here./ Stance looks like the difference is entirely based on the camera angle.

The hands are a little difference, and the elbow may be higher.

atoms
Guest
atoms
6 years 1 month ago

honestly, it looks like the dimensions of the second set of embedded photos (as he prepares to swing) are affecting your perceptions. if they were identically proportioned, he’d look closer to the plate and less crouched. i think the main difference is his elbow position: on the sox, the elbow’s in tighter to the body. but then again, it appears that the lower-photo pitch is away, and he may adjust his front arm position to swing at an outside pitch.

Christian
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Christian
6 years 1 month ago

Great article, really well done.

Knox
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Knox
6 years 1 month ago

Thanks Pat’s Dad, that is nice of you to post here.

Steve C
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Steve C
6 years 1 month ago

Premium position? Left field?

NRC
Guest
NRC
6 years 1 month ago

“. . . combined with mediocre defense at a premium position, . . .”

I stopped reading here.

Tito Puente Jr
Guest
Tito Puente Jr
6 years 1 month ago

You’re off with the ‘mediocre defense” too…Bay has been fantastic in LF this year. No Errors, very good range, decent first steps, solid accurate throws and plays the wall as good as anybody.

He’s been much better than anybody expected. He may not win a GG, but how many LF’ers do?

I look at Bay’s first year in NY and compare it to Beltrans. Bay will adjust and this slow start will be an after thought.

Jeff P
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Jeff P
6 years 1 month ago

I guess he’s been better than I expected, but his arm is actually pretty bad.

Zack
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Zack
6 years 1 month ago

Besides being an OF and struggling in their first season, what are you comparing between the two?

wobatus
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wobatus
6 years 1 month ago

Does there have to be more? Beltran had a so-so first year in NY, same with Bay. He suggests Bay may snap back in subsequent years like Beltran. Do you disagree?

Zack
Guest
Zack
6 years 1 month ago

Yeah, because that’s just a simplist answer in my view. ‘Oh, Beltran struggled his first year, so Bay will bounce back too.’
If you’re going to compare the two, actually compare their performances. Did they have similar drops in BB%? ISO? BABIP? K% go up? etc.

Franco
Guest
Franco
6 years 1 month ago

I didn’t catch all that much of Bay while he was in Pits and Boston, but it seems like he’s not swinging for the fences since he joined the Mets. It’s not like he’s hitting a ton of flyballs that are dying at the warning track. Seems is the operative word here though so I can be talking nonsense.

Who knows, maybe a player hits a couple bombs in the gaps at Citi just to have it caught and they give up on trying to drive the ball up the middle.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

I am the one that aked for “more” info in the last Bay article, as the author simply displayed that Bay had a redution in power, which was not all that revealing.

When I looked at his spray charts, he was not pulling the ball deep to LF, but was seemingly (going by the hit distribution) hitting more line drives to left.

This could be due to “hitting around the ball” instead of squaring it up. Hitting around the ball imply refers to batters that hit the outside half of the ball seemingly no matter where it’s pitched … see Alfonso Soriano for a classic example.

Another explanation could be that he is “rolling over” on the ball meaning that his top hand rolls over prematurely, which reduces loft or drive on the ball (i.e. changes it from backspin to topspin).

I do my share of reading mechanical analysis and looking at pitching/hitting breakdowns, and a couple of things I notice …

[1] This is the worst view for analyzing batting mechanics. One needs to look at it from the side, where one can look directly at the letter/buckle of the batter, to see just what is happening with the hips, hands, and truck (belt buckle).

[2] His setup looks to be very similar (distance fromplate, feet spacing, hand location, etc).

One of the main things I would be looking for is how “flat” the bottom portion of his swing path is. Most hitters have a swing path in the shape of a “C”. Pujols swing path is essentially “flat” on the bottom, which means the barrel stays in the zone a long time, which allows him to drive the ball on a line to all fields.

I would be most curioous as the whether Bay’s wrists stay in position through the point of contact, or if he is rolling his top wrist at the point of contact instead of during the follow through. That would cut down his “power” in therms of distance or loft quite a bit. In other words he would be hitting “topspin liners” instead of “backspin flies” on good contact.

Again, looking at the distibution of hits (more singles to LF than deep fly balls in 2010), I would suspect his wrist action is the cause. This could also be caused by rotating his hips earlier than normal as well, but givn that he’s hitting (seemingly) more balls to LC and RC that it doubtful to be the cause.

XZPUMAZX
Guest
XZPUMAZX
6 years 1 month ago

Can we fire Hojo and hire circlechange11?

CircleChage11
Guest
CircleChage11
6 years 1 month ago

I’ve never had a 30-30 season, won a championship, partied hard with Mex and Nails, or had a killer moustache. HoJo has me beat in every category. *grin*

Tonight, Sutcliffe said that Bay has always been an “opposite field guy”. His spray charts show all of his power is pull, almost to the extreme.

I looked at the usual mechanics websites and only saw hitting analysis on Bay fom his struggles from around 2007. I did see articles from June, 2010 where he said he made some slight change to his swing in a game where he hit a homer and had 4 hits. Guess it didn’t last.

This is why I don’t put too much weight on guys thinking they have “figured it out” instantaneously (like Max Scherer). I played with a lot of guys that were struggling only to “figure it out” for one game. *shrugs*

Looking at his numbers and contact, he’s doing about the same in those areas, he’s just hitting singles to LF instead of long fly balls (not even outs). So, he’s either doing something at the point of contact (likely) or not getting the same pitches he usually does (unlikely).

pft
Guest
pft
6 years 1 month ago

Good post. I have seen most of his games with the Red Sox and a few with the Mets and while I could not pin point it, his swing did look a bit off. Hopefully the Mets have a hitting coach who is looking at this. Bay should make 0 adjustments hitting at CITI because when he hit HR for the Red Sox, they went a long way and were HR anywhere. Most of his HR were on the road, and the wall took away a few.

JD struggled when he went to Boston, but that was also due to his kids health issues. I am sure Bay is not overly thrilled with his contract given his WAR was the same as Ryan Howard last year, or the team he ended up with. It was a stressful off season. Trying to do too much when with a new team is not unusual, although this was not an issue when he went to the Red Sox from the Pirates (that was in mid season though).

Bay will get it back once he adjusts and fixes his mechanics. He is a streaky hitter though, even last year, so extended slumps are not unusual for him.

seriously?
Guest
seriously?
6 years 1 month ago

Very subtle difference, and a couple of photo’s are no evidence. This seriously stupid analysis. Maybe his stance is different, but how do we know it makes any difference???

CircleChage11
Guest
CircleChage11
6 years 1 month ago

I do find it weird that the thread is titled “Jason Bay’s Swing” and there’s nothing about his actual swing.

Normal “swing analysis” would show high speed video and examine his [1] timing mecanism (front foot), [2] timing of his hands moving back, [3] trunk rotation, and [4] wrist action at point of contact … all resulting in looking at his swing path and overall timing.

I’d love to see it, because then we get a better sense of whether it’s easily correctable or not. I’ll ask some of the gurus that run websites to see what they can come up with. Although experience tells me 5 guys will see 5 different things … and a war among camps will ensue. *wink*

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

I’m always skeptical of these swing analyses. I would think if Bay’s problem was a simple as “he’s more flatfooted” every batting coach and his mother would have noticed it. Obviously hitter’s don’t make random changes in approach that intentional handicap their ability to hit, or if they do, those changes are corrected immediately.

Besides, some of the changes in his stance are so small that I don’t see how you can be extrapolating so much from them. Hitter’s slightly change their stances every game – they aren’t robots. His stance when the pitch is in the air looks almost identical.

Steve
Guest
6 years 1 month ago
Mike
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

In all fairness, wasn’t July the month Bay went without an RBI in Boston? Obviously, he still had a good year in Boston, and I doubt he changed his stance from his red hot April 2009, and again to end the year well, but it may be noted that he did have a span without an RBI in Boston, and his picture may be from that span.

JoeWho112
Guest
JoeWho112
6 years 1 month ago

Nice work. Do Gordon Beckham next, pretty please

mets4ever19
Guest
mets4ever19
6 years 17 days ago

U guys are all forgetting that beltran was injured all of his first year as a met.

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