Sunday, January 03, 2010

Jason Bay and Citi Field

Earlier this week, Jeff Pearlman of wrote an article claiming that Jason Bay would be a "big bust" in New York. In it, he compared the signing of Jason Bay to the Mets' 1982 acquisition of slugger George Foster - a trade which, in his opinion, was a huge bust. He points to certain facts to support that claim. They are both left fielders, they are both in their early 30's, and they are both well-known run producers being acquired to hit in the middle of their respective lineups.

Here, however, is where the article goes from insightful to silly. Pearlman claims that the Bay acquisition is doomed to become a bust like Foster's because, although both players were quality players, it did not address the strengths and weaknesses of the teams acquiring them. In Foster's case, Pearlman claims that "it was the club's rotten starting rotation and lowly middle infield that required the most attention." Foster's acquisition was a mix of public relations and improvements in areas that didn't need it.

Today, Pearlman suggests the acquisition of Bay is inappropriate because of the dimensions of Citi Field:
When New York's brain-dead powers-that-be decided that Citi Field should feature spacious outfield grass and power alleys from here to Hagåtña, they unintentionally dictated the type of team that GM Omar Manaya is required to assemble. Namely, the modern-day Mets must replicate the '85 Cardinals, who were constructed around speed and pitching; around doubles and triples into the gaps; around shutouts and 2-1 wins. In Flushing, the signature has to be run generation -- Jose Reyes leading off with a single, stealing second, stealing third, being brought home via a sac fly. The Mets need men who take lots of pitches and work deep into counts; who can hit to the opposite field and run like Miguel Dilone.
Although I agree with Pearlman that the Mets should be building around pitching and defense -- and that I think Jason Bay is going to be a big bust in Queens -- it is NOT because of the dimensions of Citi Field. Here are the facts:

*** The Mets hit the least home runs in the major leagues last year. It was not because of Citi Field. It is because they were NOT VERY GOOD.

*** Last season, Mets hitters hit 49 home runs at home... but hit only 46 away. In fact, their 748 OPS at home was higher than their 711 OPS when away.

*** To make matters worse, Mets pitchers also allowed more home runs at Citi Field than they did while away, 81-77.

*** As a whole, the Mets were out-homered last year 158 to 95.

*** According to ESPN, although Citi Field depressed run scoring last year, it was actually MORE FAVORABLE to home runs than the average MLB ballpark. It ranked 12th in friendliness to home runs, while ranking 22nd overall in runs.

I watch the games too, and it appears that Citi Field hurts home runs a little bit -- but there is a ton of empirical evidence which would incidate otherwise. If there is an effect on home runs (and there probably is) it is probably that it depresses home runs slightly. The important point is that the effect, if any, is slight.[1] It would be reckless to change your entire strategy for acquiring players because of speculation.

Matt Pignataro over at NY Baseball Digest takes issue with the Pearlman article as well, except that he takes issue with the idea that Bay will not perform well in Queens. He concludes:

To label Bay a bust at this point like Pearlman did is little unfair. I think he’s going to be a good fit on the field and off it. Bay’s a gamer, who just goes out there, plays the game, and gives what is asked of him. Jason Bay will not be a bust, he will earn every penny of that contract he just signed. I can guarantee that.
Well... we've covered Bay here extensively already.

He's supposedly a brutal fielder. He's going to be playing here for his age 32 to 36 seasons. Players with his skill set tend to decline poorly (see: Danny Tartabull or Ryan Klesko). He's making way too much money (see: Bobby Bonilla).

I would be extremely shocked if he earned his contract, and I'd be surprised if he even came close. There are plenty of reasons why Jason Bay is going to be a bust in Queens. Citi Field is not one of them.

[1] To read a very thorough, perhaps definitive guide to Citi Field and it's probably current and future effect on home runs, head over to this interview over on Amazin Avenue with the guru behind

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