Jason Bay! There, I feel better already. How can you not love Jason Bay? Here's what we predicted, and what actually happened:
We were only a shade too optimistic. Chucksbucs was the closest guesser, at .290/.395/.530. Bolton was right behind, at .290/.390/.530. We were all in the same ballpark, though - as with the Jack Wilson projection, there was a lot of consistency across the board, and our guesses closely resembled the actual results. Unlike with the Wilson projection, that's a good thing.
Bay's rank among qualified MLB LFs in OPS:
The guy is a superstar. There's been some message board complaining about his performance this year with runners on. Initially, it struck me as churlish, because Bay had 109 RBIs and because he rules. But even if it weren't, the runners-on thing isn't really Bay's fault, exactly. I once described Bay's apparently lackluster performance with runners on this year as "random variance," which it probably partly is, but now I think I was partly wrong about that.
Let's check the splits:
|Man on 1st
|Man on 2nd
|Man on 3rd
|Men on 1st and 2nd
|Men on 1st and 3rd
|Men on 2nd and 3rd
Whenever first base was open, Bay struggled (except in the handful of at bats he had with just a man on third). Whenever first was occupied, Bay raked. What might cause that to happen? Well, the actual OBP numbers with first base open are revealing - he batted .148 with a man on second, but he had a .378 OBP. With men on second and third, he batted .167 but had a .467 OBP.
The conclusion here is obvious: pitchers will not throw strikes to Bay with a base open. And why would they? Throughout 2006, the batter after Bay was a vastly inferior hitter, usually Jeromy Burnitz or Xavier Nady. (Craig Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Joe Randa, Sean Casey and others also got a bunch of at bats in the 5-hole.)
On top of that, there was no reason for pitchers to throw to Bay in those situations because it seems he was often willing to swing at their junk. He drew 26 walks with a man on second or men on second and third, but he also went 9-for-60 with just three extra-base hits, all doubles.
It could be that this is just a sample-size issue, but, like BD poster Econolodge (who mentioned this recently), I wonder if this has to do with Jeff Manto's coaching. Manto has said that he doesn't think highly of OBP because a walk "is not always a desired or productive result," according to the Tribune-Review.
If Bay's numbers were the fruits of this sort of coaching, I wouldn't be surprised. I can't believe even Manto would think a walk is unproductive unless there were already runners on base to drive in. If Bay is trying to expand his strike zone in situations in which pitchers have no incentive to throw him a strike, that strategy is plainly not working. Bay would be more productive for the Pirates if he laid off pitchers' junk whenever it was offered.