Well. ZiPS was wrong, we were way wrong and whatever happened to Jason Bay was wrong too. Obviously, no individual guesser got close.
It could just be that Bay's done, and we should be vigilant about him - he had knee surgery last offseason, and as a late bloomer, he's probably likely to have a short peak. But it shouldn't be this short.
There are a lot of interesting parallels between Bay's career and that of Bobby Higginson, the former Tigers outfielder who appeared on a lot of Bay comparables lists before this year. 2007 was Bay's age 28 season.
Here are Bay's age 26, 27 and 28 seasons compared with Higginson's.
Age 26: 162 games, 32 HR, .306.402/.559, 148 OPS+
Age 27: 159 games, 35 HR, .286/.396/.532, 136 OPS+
Age 28: 145 games, 21 HR, .247/.327/.418, 92 OPS+
Age 26: 146 games, 27 HR, .299/.379/.520, 133 OPS+
Age 27: 157 games, 25 HR, .284/.355/.480, 114 OPS+
Age 28: 107 games, 12 HR, .239/.351/.382, 87 OPS+
Like Bay, Higginson was a relatively athletic corner outfielder who was a late-round draft pick out of college and didn't make his big-league debut until he was 24. So we might look at these numbers and assume that what happened to Bay this year should have been predictable.
Except there's more to the story: in Higginson's Age 28 season, he had a big toe injury that caused him to miss a bunch of time, probably affected him most of the year, and eventually required surgery. Here are Higginson's OPSes by month:
Higginson started the season hitting like crazy, then couldn't hit much after April. These splits look an awful lot like Bay's in 2007:
I think there was something pretty seriously wrong with Bay most of the year, and we don't know what it is yet - we all know his knee would be a problem coming into 2007, but it didn't seem to affect him much the first two months of the season. It could be that it started acting up again. Either way, Bay looked clueless at the plate starting in June, and couldn't get it going after that.
So what does the future hold for Bay? Well, in his Age 29 season, Higginson came roaring back:
Age 29: 154 games, 30 HR, .300/.377/.538, 132 OPS+
Assuming Bay can get relatively healthy this offseason, I wouldn't be surprised if he came roaring back, too. But there's reason to be wary, as injuries and decline ended up eating Higginson alive:
Age 30: 115 OPS+
Age 31: 108 OPS+
Age 32: 86 OPS+
Age 33: 97 OPS+
Age 34: -48 OPS+
Higginson was toast by age 32. My guess is that Bay will be good through the rest of his contract, but I wouldn't want to be the team who signs him after that.