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A Tale of Two Citi Fielders

Entering the 2011 season, it was easily the worst of times for two New York Mets’ outfielders. Both Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay entered the season facing similar concerns. Due to injuries, general ineffectiveness, and age both players were considered risky fantasy options entering 2011. Despite the fact that both players entered 2011 dealing with the same issues, their performances up to this point in the season could not be more different. While Bay hasn’t looked the same since a concussion prematurely ended his 2010, Beltran looks reinvigorated as a right fielder. Now that we’ve reached the half way point of the season, let’s take a look at each player’s performance thus far.

Despite missing the first 3 1/2 months of the 2010 season, Carlos Beltran returned from knee surgery and finished out the season with the Mets. While his 2010 peripherals were in line with his career numbers, Beltran showed signs of decline. Always a strong fielder and stolen base threat, Beltran no longer displayed the burst he had pre-surgery. Combine that with the fact that Beltran, now 34, isn’t getting any younger, and you could see how there was a lot of uncertainty about his performance heading into 2011.

Beltran has proved the doubters wrong this season. While he may no longer be a threat to steal bases, he’s actually been alright on the base paths this season — posting a positive Bsr this season. That could be an indication that his knee isn’t bothering him as much as it did last season. At the plate, it’s been more of the same for Beltran. All of his peripherals are in line with his career averages — with his slash line actually being slightly better than usual. It appears his slightly depressed line in 2010 was more than likely a result of bad luck due to a poor BABIP.

Even though it would have been nearly impossible to predict before the season, Beltran appears to have completely recovered from his injury. Despite the fact that he’s 34, and no longer a 5-tool fantasy asset, Beltran still appears to have a couple useful years left in the tank. For a player facing so many questions entering the season, he’s been an absolute steal for owners who were willing to take the risk.

Jason Bay, on the other hand, has been a complete disaster. Though Bay’s peripherals actually aren’t that far off of his career numbers, he hasn’t displayed any power this season — a problem that has plagued him since signing with the Mets. Much of Bay’s struggles are likely due to his inability to fully recover from a concussion suffered last season.

We don’t know a whole lot about the lasting effects concussions have on players, but it’s becoming clear that it’s a very serious issue. The data we have on players who have suffered concussions is still relatively limited, so it’s extremely tough to determine how/when/or if players will rebound from these types of injuries. A concussion is widely considered to be the main culprit behind the premature end of Corey Koskie‘s career. More recently, neither Bay nor Justin Morneau seem to have fully recovered from concussions suffered last season. Bay’s power outage did begin before his injury, however, so it’s possible that the concussion is not fully to blame for his struggles.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us much about how to accurate project players coming off of injuries. Even though Bay and Beltran appeared to be in similar situations heading into this season — coming off injuries, getting older, etc. — they’ve turned in totally opposite seasons. Obviously, the severity of their injuries needs to be taken into consideration. Beltran actually came back from his injury last season and proved that he could stay healthy. Bay, on the other hand, couldn’t return from a concussion last season and headed into 2011 with a little more uncertainty. On top of that, a head injury is a more serious ailment than a knee injury. Though Beltran and Bay appeared to be in the same situation entering this season, their current performances indicate that couldn’t have been further from the truth.