>Matt Holliday vs. Jason Bay: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know and More.

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Because there has been no actual Mets’ news this offseason, short of the signing of hundreds of nameless, faceless backup catchers and a Japanese setup man, and because Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are both still free agents, I am going to attempt to beat the Holliday vs. Bay debate into a dead bloody pulp with this post. Relevant Simpson’s Quote: Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!
 
Amazin’ Avenue’s Sam Page wrote this on his twitter today, which got me started up on “Bay-Holliday” again:

“I didn’t think Mets fans could actually underrate Bay, but they have. In the rush to be smarter than O, every1 forgot what a good player is.”

I have previously been guilty of some Jason Bay bashing, here and here, but Page is absolutely right. Jason Bay is a good baseball player and would be a welcome addition to the 2010 Mets. In case anyone has forgotten, here is a list of everyone who has spent time in LF for the Mets from 2007-2009, with the terrible in italics, and the “wow, really?” in both bold and italics:

Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan, Jeremy Reed, Fernando Tatis, Fernando Martinez, Nick Evans, Wilson Exxon-Valdez (!), Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, Moises Alou, Trot Nixon, Damion Easley, Chris Aguila, Brady Clark, Andy Phillips, Carlos Gomez, Rickey Ledee, Lastings Milledge, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, Jeff Conine.

That’s different 23 players for those of you keeping score at home, or a different player roughly every 21 regular season games. I also count 8 players I would consider infielders. Jason Bay has played in 145, 155, 151 games in each of the last three seasons, so his stability would be much welcome. To put it in math terms Jason Bay > all of those guys.

All that being said, my problem with signing Jason Bay has nothing to do with Jason Bay. Instead, it’s a problem of economics. Jason Bay is going to probably cost $16 million dollars a year for four years, or a lower annual salary for five years. Matt Holliday, and this again is just my estimation, is going to cost around $20 million dollars for 6-7 years. Here’s the thing though: Matt Holliday will be worth more than he is paid, whereas Jason Bay will be simply equal to the money he is paid. Jason Bay is a good investment, but Matt Holliday is a better one.

Of course, I could be wrong, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are a whole bunch of Holliday/Bay comparison graphs from 2007-2009, including batting, fielding, and base running.

First up, let’s compare batting.

A couple of points: First, as far as I know, Fangraphs wOBA is not park adjusted, so Bay is getting a boost from Fenway Park and Holliday is getting an even bigger boost from playing in Coors Field. Second, while Bay was a bit better in 2009, my guess is that Holliday will recover and continue to gobble up the weaker NL. However, you could make a strong argument for either player being a better hitter. Either way, both are an improvement over Wilson Exxon-Valdez.

Base running:

Both players appear to be decent-to-good base runners. Holliday was one of the major’s best in 2008 (28 SB and just 2 CS) but fell off a cliff in 2009, in part because his 7 CS and just 14 SB. Despite being on the slower side, Bay seems to run intelligently, so I’m going to call this a wash.

Fielding Part 1 – UZR and +/- Runs Saved:

UZR hates Jason Bay and thinks he is one of the worst fielders in baseball, and while Runs Saved is a bit kinder, it thinks he’s bad too. Holliday’s Runs Saved and his UZR agree that he is an above average left fielder. Whatever you want to use, I think it’s clear that Holliday is a better fielder.

Fielding Part 2 – Fan Scouting Reports:

I adjusted the 2007 and 2008 data from a 0-100 scale to the 0-5 scale the 2009 data is on and threw in Carl Crawford, one of the best LF in baseball, and Adam Dunn, one of the worst, to provide some perspective. Some of these numbers are based on 20 or so fan votes, so all kinds of small sample size warnings here.

Last graph – Fangraphs player value:

This is based on Fangraphs WAR, so all the problems with that should be taken into account here, mostly issues with wildly fluctuating UZR. If you substitute +/- for UZR, Bay is worth more than shown here, but Holliday remains way above him.
I think this last graph best illustrates my point: Jason Bay, a good player, might be worth $16 million a year, but Matt Holliday, a great player, is going to be worth more than $20 million a year. The Mets will get more bang for the buck out of Holliday. Just look at all the graphs. Holliday is ahead of Bay almost everywhere, fielding, hitting, base running, and overall value. Jason Bay is good; Matt Holliday is better.
Here’s one last graph, in case Just for Men is looking for another pitchman:

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