Breaking down the Red Sox lineup: Jason Bay

Number 3 hitter: Jason Bay

[B-R] [FanGraphs] [Josh Kalk] [ESPN] [HitTracker]

It’s rumored that Ortiz has hit third because Manny Ramirez insisted on hitting fourth so that he could rack up the RBIs. Now that Manny is gone, David Ortiz can move into the cleanup spot, where many feel he should have been hitting all along. That opens up the three slot for new left fielder Bay, a native Canadian, who is in the middle of a very good comeback season (.282/.375/.519 with 22 HR and 64 RBI) after a dismal, injury-riddled 2007 (.247/.327/.418). His 47 XBH ranks him second on the Sox behind Youkilis, but HitTracker tells us that he’s been a bit “lucky” in that 7 of his 22 dingers have just barely left the park; so he should in reality have about 20. The Monster will mitigate that, and also help him with his doubles total. The Sox will be looking for him to fill some big shoes, and you’d better believe there will be a LOT of scrutiny from the media and fans.

How he’s pitched to
Bay hits lefties well, but for his career has hit righties just as well (.276/.389/515 versus LHP, .283/.371/.515 versus RHP). He is a waiter at the plate, so pitchers attack the strike zone early with him. Pitchers have been giving Bay the fastball slightly less than half the time (49.12%). Righties show Bay a lot of sliders (27%), while lefties also mix a lot of changeups (23.5%). Bay can be fooled on the slider (and offspeed stuff) low and away, and pitchers know that. He can foul off the curve inside, but he usually misses when it’s down low where it should be. If it’s left away from him, he can take it the opposite way down the line, which is good. Bay has struck out at around a 26% rate for his career, but this season has it down to 21.9%, which is good.

Hitting approach
A right-handed hitter, Bay is remarkably consistent from month to month and very patient at the dish. His 4.12 P/PA ranks second on the Red Sox, next to J.D. Drew, who is at 4.14 P/PA. He’ll take a lot of strikes, so be prepared for that. His career line drive rate of 18.7% is not bad, but suggests that he’s typically going to hit somewhere between maybe .265 and .285 in a given year. His BABIP is at .313, so this season seems pretty legit. If this year’s numbers tell us anything, it’s that he’s primarily a fastball hitter. He likes to wait out a pitcher and sit on that fastball (.282 on four seamers, .375 on sinkers, and he’s slugging about .587 on both of them). He makes decent contact on sliders (.278) and cutters (.250), but struggles somewhat with slow stuff, and doesn’t hit it nearly as hard. He has very good plate coverage, and can hit anything in the strike zone, though he does swing and miss more than truly elite players (80.14% contact rate). Bay has actually been slightly more aggressive on heaters outside the zone, and has a high 63.68% CR outside the zone when he swings.

Bay is hitting .250/.312/.450 against AL pitching in 267 Inter-League AB, which is not terribly encouraging, but that’s not necessarily a tell-all sign. Coming from a small-market team where he never asked for a trade, people may wonder if he can play under pressure. He’s a .273/.373/.529 hitter in “high leverage” situations, and he’s hit many good NL pitchers very well (see below). Hopefully these are encouraging signs.

.359/.468/.897 in 39 AB vs Carlos Zambrano
.400/.419/.500 in 30 AB vs Ben Sheets
.077/.172/.192 in 26 AB vs Chris Carpenter
.355/.429/.419 in 31 AB vs Roy Oswalt
.370/.408/.870 in 46 AB vs Aaron Harang
.429/.452/.821 in 28 AB vs Greg Maddux

More than someone who will at least run to first base, Bay is an intelligent baserunner, though he doesn’t have the speed he once had (he stole 21 bases in 2005). For his career, he’s been successful in almost 82% of stolen base attempts, and only been caught once in the last two years, so he knows what he’s doing out there. I wouldn’t look for him to run much, but much like Mike Lowell, he will take advantage on the basepaths when he sees an opportunity, and take the extra base.

Bay is yet another consummate professional player, which the Sox really like. He plays the game right, he won’t say stupid things to the press, he’s the total opposite of Manny in that sense. I don’t think people should look to Jason to replace Manny’s bat, because very few players can replace him as a hitter. He’s being described as a slugger, but he’s not, really. He’s a good hitter with some power, more in the 25-30 HR per season range, though he did reach 35 HR in 2006. The only concern with Bay is his lingering problems with his knees. There are times when he has to ice them after every game. Let’s see what happens.

Other articles in this series:
J.D. Drew
Manny Ramirez
David Ortiz
Dustin Pedroia
Jacoby Ellsbury


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