Data: .259/.347/.402 6 HR, 47 RBI
Malfunction: Mets fans are getting all too used to watching big-time sluggers come to Citi Field and then watching their home runs disappear. Last year, it was David Wright(notes), who went from 33 homers in 2008 to just 10 in 2009.
Wright has recovered somewhat, with 15 homers this year, so now it's Jason Bay's turn. He has just six homers for the entire season, and his OPS is 172 points lower than last year.
Diagnosis: This isn't the first time that Bay has had a season-long power outage. In 2007, the year before the three-team trade that brought him to Boston, he went from being one of the top outfielders in the National League to one of the worst, dropping 182 points of OPS and leading to concerns that he'd already peaked at the age of 28. He fended off those concerns by hammering the ball in 2008 — both in Pittsburgh and Boston — but now his problems have returned.
His power outage can't exactly be blamed on luck; his BABIP and line drive rate are both higher than they were last year. It can't be blamed on Citi Field, either: he's hitting .277/.371/.459 at home, and just .243/.326/.354 on the road. The home numbers are a little off his career numbers, but well within spitting distance. It's the crazy away numbers that have been keeping him down — well, that, and his nightmarish July, during which he's batted a homerless .194, with just three extra-base hits in 79 plate appearances. His rate stats haven't changed much, so one has to assume that he'll improve — though it's an open question whether that will happen in August or not until next April.
Reboot Directions: A month ago, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron wrote that in this case, it was likely that "a slump is just a slump," and Bay would sooner or later resume hitting up to his usual standard. Because his walk rate, strikeout rate, and line drive rate are all essentially unchanged, that's a plausible argument. But Bay has had a season long slump before, and it looks like he's in the midst of doing it again. Sometimes a slump is just a really, really long slump. We'll see how he does when he comes back from the mild concussion he suffered over the weekend in Los Angeles.
Justin Smoak(notes), Seattle Mariners .200/.293/.341, 10 HR, 38 RBI
Smoak, the uber-prospect who was good enough to bring Cliff Lee(notes) to the Rangers, was having a bad rookie year with the Rangers. But since coming to Seattle his slump has gone nuclear. He's just 9-for-55 in a Mariner uniform, good for a .164 batting average and a horrifying 1/22 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He has oodles of potential, and he'll still likely turn into the star that the Mariners expected they were getting, but for the first time in his professional career, there are some whispered doubts.
Mike Pelfrey(notes), New York Mets 10-5, 4.00 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 1.57 K/BB
On June 30, the Mets were 43-34, just a game and a half out of first place, and Mike Pelfrey strode to the mound with a 10-2 record and a 2.71 ERA. Then he got knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up 12 hits and four earned runs and he hasn't pitched more than five innings since. In his last five starts, Pelfrey has given up 23 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings, and his ERA has ballooned. The lesson? He wasn't quite as good as he was pitching early in the season, with his indifferent strikeout rate and mediocre K/BB. He's still having a fine season overall, but he was due for a correction. Unfortunately, the Mets' season has gone south along with Pelfrey's.
Brennan Boesch(notes), Detroit Tigers .305/.371/.519, 12 HR, 51 RBI
A little over a month ago, I wrote this about Boesch: "He clearly has a powerful bat, but all signs point to a major cooloff once the league catches up to him." Since I wrote those words, he's batted .254/.346/.381, and right now he's 4-for-his-last-42, with no extra-base hits in his last 12 games. He has vastly improved his BB/K ratio, which should figure well for the future, and he's still having about the best rookie year that anyone could ever have imagined. But he isn't as good as he looked when he first came up. It happens.
- Jason Bay
- Citi Field