Please allow me to go on a little rant. Since WPGB began posting the Piratesí postgame show in podcast form, I have made a point of listening to virtually every show. I do this because the content is great and I want to ensure that I donít miss any important details about each game. In addition, this allows me to get a better sense of the viewpoints of the general Pirate fan, something that is often difficult to see in the online Pirate world. It amazes me just how much Jason Bay bashing I hear. On what seems like a nightly basis, a fired-up fan calls in to complain about Bay, with some even suggesting that he should be benched.
Look, I get it. Bay has a .265 batting average. Much of his offensive value comes in the form of a precise batting eye and an abundance of walks. He has a quiet, laid-back attitude, giving him an appearance of carelessness on the field. He strikes out a lot. He has a weak arm. He only has 22 RBIís. Heís not flashy, and just looks like a regular guy. I understand why he doesnít stick out as a great player.
But Jason Bay is a great player. What does he have to do to gain some respect in this city? He simply goes out every day and does his job, and does it very well. Does everyone remember the final day of the 2005 season? Bay, finishing a fantastic second season in the Majors, smacked his 44th double in the first inning against the Brewers. It was the 162nd game that Bay played that year, and Pete Mackanin chose to pull him for a pinch runner. As Bay returned to the dugout, he received a standing ovation for his effort that year. The following season, Pirate fans aggressively voted him in as a starting outfielder in the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
Bay has battled knee injuries the past two seasons. Despite that fact, he managed to play in 159 games in 2006 and 145 games last year. Those knee problems appeared to finally overwhelm Bay in 2007, dragging his performance well below his career norm. Apparently, one down year was all it took for Pirate fans to totally write him off. He has been very good this year, yet fans are still calling for his head. Bay has the top on-base percentage on the team, and the third highest slugging percentage. He has 13 more walks than any other Pirate and is second on the team in home runs. He is getting even better as the season goes on, sporting a .942 OPS in May. He had two more hits Thursday night, including his 11th home run.
One criticism of Bay is that he is not clutch, racking up meaningless numbers in low leverage situations. Yes, he has been mediocre with runners in scoring position this season. But he has excellent numbers in close and late situations. A better measure of a playerís contribution to his teamís record is his win probability added (WPA). Bay is currently 16th in Major League Baseball with a WPA of 1.10.
What more does Jason Bay have to do?