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Monday, August 8, 2011
W2W4: Jason Bay coming into form

By Mark Simon

On July 27, while the rest of his teammates were hitting ropes against the Reds and producing big-time results, Jason Bay was likewise pummeling the baseball. Except he had nothing to show for it.

Bay had one of baseball’s unluckiest days in that 8-2 Mets win in Cincinnati, going 0-for-5, despite putting three balls in play that our video tracking system classified as “well-hit.”

That’s unusual, though not impossible, as this system (put together by Inside Edge) calculates that about two-thirds of well-hit balls go for base hits.

Bay was the sixth player this season to have such a game -- five balls in play, no hits, at least three balls classified as well-hit.

Hitting coach Dave Hudgens said afterward that Bay would be fine, so long as he put his trust in the process that led to those well-struck balls.

“He’s doing a lot of stuff right,” Hudgens said at the time.

He was right.

The next day, Bay had three more well-hit balls and this time he was rewarded with hits in all three instances, including a key bases-loaded double in the Mets 10-9 series-sweeping win over the Reds.

In fact, since July 28, Bay has had 16 well-hit balls, an average of nearly two per game. They have produced 15 hits. The breaks are now going Bay’s way and that’s needed, considering the Mets lineup will be depleted by the absences of Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy.

Bay is now 16-for-35 with four walks in his last nine games, hitting .457.

Key to the resurgence has been that Bay has been doing what is expected of a hitter who was expected to be a middle-of-the-order contributor -- drive the ball. Of the 28 balls he’s put into play since July 28, 21 of them have been either fly balls (13) or line drives (eight). Prior to this run, he was hitting the ball on the ground nearly half the time.

In this span Bay has hit pitches thrown down the middle of the plate -- as opposed to inside or outside -- at a much better rate.

Prior to this hot streak, Bay had as many strikeouts (21) as hits (21) on pitches thrown to that area this season. That made him unwatchable to some. But now, when a Bay-watch is brought up, it's thought of in a positive manner.

During the hot streak, his ratio is 8-to-2, as in eight hits and two strikeouts.