Jason Bay is a good baseball player ... at some things. For other things, he's a bad baseball player. But that's true for a lot of baseball players. There aren't many players who are great at everything.
We have an idea of what Bay's strengths and weaknesses are, but what's more important for the future of the Red Sox?Let's look at the negatives first. In bullet point form, of course:
I know -- it's harsh -- but we all know it's true. Sure, he committed zero errors. Which is absolutely fantastic ... if you are watching baseball from the 1980s. Instead, his UZR/150 was -11.2 (which was actually much better than his -24 in 49 games with the Sox in 2008).
His -11.2 was second worst in the MLB for left fielders only in front of Ryan Braun. So it's really simple to say he was one of the worst -- potentially the worst. This is something Theo Epstein knows and it will be huge when it comes down to figuring out a contract.
(With all this fielding stuff, let me mention he wasn't even the worst Red Sox outfielder defensively according to UZR/150. Jacoby Ellsbury takes that honor with his impressive -18.3 -- third worst in the MLB. Hooray for Vernon Wells' impressive dropoff in production!)
But we've killed fielding into the ground. It's dead. We know about Bay's inefficiencies. Now let's talk about what he does right.
Bay's OPS of .921 was second best in the American League for qualified left fielders (Adam Lind was No. 1) and his .384 was second. His BB% of 15 was second in the major leagues ... and so was his K% (30.5). He also had the second most home runs for left fielders in the MLB (the last three stats, he trailed only Adam Dunn. Boy, they're just a little similar, huh?)
So what's more important: Bay's great offense or Bay's poor defense?
Let's put it this way. Who would you rather play left field for the Boston Red Sox, Jason Bay or Nyjer Morgan?
Morgan was arguably the best defensive left fielder in baseball last season, but his bat isn't anything to write home about. Here's his full line:
|2009 - Nyjer Morgan||49||191||35||67||9||2||1||12||11||25||24||7||.351||.396||.435|
(NOTE: Those are Morgan's stats from his time with Washington, not with Pittsburgh too. He batted .277 with the Pirates.)
I'm sure a lot of you look at those stats and go, "Yes! I'd much rather have Morgan if his defense is true." But really, you're looking at another player like Ellsbury -- except better defensive.
Admit it, you'd miss the power bat in the middle of the lineup. Defense wins games, but without offense, you'll never win games. A player might go to bat five times in a game, but never have a ball hit to them in the field in the same game. So where do you want your player to be better?
Perhaps it's not a fair argument, because I know a lot of you will say: "Screw Morgan. Give me Holliday." Sure, and I get that argument, but I think it comes down to give and take. Which would you rather have: nine great defenders who can't hit, or nine great hitters who can't field.
That's what we're struggling with Bay.