Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jason Bay saves the day - with his glove

The Mets jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, but the Phillies stormed back to take the lead in the bottom of the second. What do you expect with a rattled rookie on the mound and a lousy defense behind him. Especially that left fielder who's better suited to be a DH.

Oh, wait, that's the 2009 Mets.

This year's team made three strong outfield plays in the second to limit the Phillies to one run on three hits, giving Jon Niese a chance to settle down and retire 14 Phillies in a row. Jeff Francoeur made a great throw to hold Jayson Werth to a single, then slammed into the wall to take an extra-base hit away from Raul Ibanez.

With two out and two on, Shane Victorino hit a deep fly to left, but Jason Bay raced back and made a leaping catch against the wall to end the inning.

Jason Bay? Isn't he the guy who can't play the outfield and has that awful UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), proving that he is a bad defender?

A few days ago, UZR was updated, primarily to take into account quirky ballparks.

Such as Fenway Park, Bay's home last year.

Most players were barely affected. But Bay's number was recalculated from -13.8 to +1.9, meaning that UZR no longer sees Bay as a bad outfielder, but an average one.

And tonight, Bay made a play that was well above average.

One year ago tomorrow, on May 2, 2009, the Mets' left fielder was Daniel Murphy and their right fielder was Gary Sheffield. Murphy and Sheffield would not have made the plays that Bay and Francoeur made. Niese would have given up at least three runs in the second, maybe more. Instead of leading, 3-1, Niese and the Mets might have been behind at the end of that inning. It would have been a very different game.


The Mets were ripped in many quarters for signing Bay. One month is too soon to judge a multiyear deal. Bay is hitting better, but still has just one homer and strikes out a great deal.

But Bay has surprised on the basepaths with his speed, legging out three triples so far, matching his total for all of last year.

And in the outfield, Bay has helped turn the Mets' defense from a nightmare to a strength.

The most important thing to come out of this game was Jon Niese's great performance - 7 IP, one run, four hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Four homers by the Met batters was pretty impressive as well.

But Niese would not have put up such good numbers if he did not have such a strong outfield defense behind him.

Part of the Red Sox' decision to let Bay go was their strategy to concentrate on defense this offseason. One of the defensive stars the Red Sox brought in was third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Tonight, Beltre made his fifth error of the young season, resulting in an unearned run. If that run had not scored and everything else in the game stayed the same, the Red Sox would have won. Instead, the game went into extra innings and the Red Sox lost.

Meanwhile, Jason Bay, who wasn't a good enough outfielder for the Red Sox's tastes, helped the Mets win a game with his fielding.

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