It's truly amazing how much a small, solid stretch of baseball can change perceptions. Take Jason Bay: Prior to his last 18 games, in which he's flashed a triple slash line of .347/.405/.542, Bay was such an unmitigated disaster that most Mets fans considered him salvageable. Many, like me, thought young players with somewhat limited upside – like Lucas Duda – had definitively earned the right to start over Bay.
Now, after two home runs last night, Bay has four in 12 games and it seems like he could be poised for a surge similar to what Carlos Delgado did in 2008. So it would seem. Personally, I'm not a believer. For starters, Bay turns 33 years old and the last time you could pick out an arbitrary stretch of even 30 games in which he was a very good hitter was way back in 2009. Moreover, he's doing his damage pretty much exclusively against lefties and for the old Jason Bay, 18 games with an OPS of .946 would not even have counted as a hot streak.
And of course, most importantly, it's 18 games.
But, I guess you could make the opposite case, that due to injuries, Bay has actually had extremely limited playing time with the Mets. So much so that you could, if you wanted, chalk Bay's failure up to two relatively small cold spells. Consider that as late as June 29th of last year, Bay was rocking a solid enough .816 OPS. That's not good for Jason Bay, or anyone being paid $16m a year solely based on their hitting ability, but only five qualified NL LF's finished with marks higher than that last season, and only three have exceeded that this season. Bay promptly went into a 19 game funk, saw his .OPS drop to .749 on the season, got a concussion and never got a chance to level it out with a hot streak. Then, this year, if you take the arbitrary end point of where his numbers dropped to their lowest -- June 13 -- you could argue Bay simply endured a slump of 176 plate appearances (in which he was truly awful.) In fact, he's already logged 79 plate appearances since then, in which he's hitting .347 and slugging a healthy .542.
None of this is to say that I think Jason Bay will become an elite hitter again. That would be asking too much. But it is to point out that had Bay gotten his concussion a few weeks earlier last season, his overall numbers wouldn't look so disappointing. And that essentially between 78 plate appearances last season and first 176 this season, he may have simply endured a truly terrible slump that, after all, only amounts to 40% of a typical season's worth of trips to the plate.
Or he may be just as finished as he looked 19 games ago. But now we can kind of hope...