It's Time To Talk About Seattle Mariners' Jason Bay

By Thom Tsang
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Could it really be?

Is Jason Bay finally a productive member of the MLB society again?

Don’t look now, but after years of abject failure under the weight of a big contract that he did anything but live up to (and was ultimately cut short), the former Pittsburgh Pirates star outfielder has apparently risen from the dead with the Seattle Mariners.

How? Mostly because his power has come back.

Including the solo shot that he hit against the San Diego Padres on Monday, the M’s left fielder now has three home runs in the month of May, and has hit five overall on the year over 121 PA. That puts Bay at about a 20-home run pace for the season, which would make 2013 his best year in that department since … well, since he was an annual 30+ homer hitter from his younger days.

No, he’s still not exactly hitting very well per se, as his .213 batting average in May isn’t going to impress anyone, but the power game has allowed him to be a bit of a bargain asset for the M’s at $1 million salary — something you haven’t been able to say about him for quite some time.

And not only that, he’s succeeding as a table-setter these days too, in spite of his uninspiring average. 61 of Bay’s 102 at-bats have come at either the leadoff or the No. 2 spot in the lineup, and that’s because the 34-year-old’s batting eye seems to have come back with a vengeance as well.

With a four-year high 13.2 percent walk rate, not even the poor .245 BA that he has on the season is stopping him from posting an otherwise decent .787 OPS, thanks in large part to his .355 OBP that’s remained relatively useful at .345 in May, despite his Mendoza-esque average for the month.

He’s already the third-most valuable position player on the 2013 Mariners with 0.8 fWAR earned over 37 games, and at this rate, he could break the 2.0 fWAR threshold for the first time since before his ill-fated union with the New York Mets.

But will it last?

That’s a bit harder to say. It’s unlikely that his average will improve with a 69.5 percent contact rate (his lowest since the PITCHf/x era) — if anything, it’s likely to get worse. You could also reasonably say that his 20 percent HR/FB rate is going to dip at some point too. Still, as long as the walks hold, Bay should at least serve as a functional bat in the bottom half of the batting order.

He’s not going to be a star again anytime soon, but considering the mess that the former All-Star has been over the last few seasons, he’s cleaned up quite well for the Mariners in 2013 thus far.

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