Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jason Bay could hit home runs in Seattle

(Rain delays make writers think about all sorts of strange things.)

As Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay nears free agency, the possible suitors for his services will begin to line up. The Red Sox, of course, will make an effort to retain him. The Yankees, too, will make a play for him given the vacancy they'll have in left field.

One dark horse, however, could be the Seattle Mariners. Not only does Bay maintain an offseason home in the Seattle area, but the Mariners are the type of franchise that could make a lucrative offer for the outfielder's services. On top of that, the Mariners have a spectacular center fielder in Franklin Gutierrez who might mitigate Bay's defensive shortcomings.

The only question, really, is this: Would Seattle's Safeco Field be somewhere Bay would want to hit for the next six or seven seasons of his career?

Safeco Field has a reputation as a pitchers' park -- thanks in large part to its deep alley in left-center field. Ken Griffey Jr. reportedly asked out of Seattle back in 1999 and 2000 in large part because he didn't want to have to hit in the Mariners' new park.

Bay might share the same concerns -- but they'd be unfounded.

Here's where Bay's home runs have landed this season -- adjusted for wind, humidity and other outside factors:

Here's where all the home runs hit at Safeco Field this season have landed:

As you can see, it's less than 350 feet down the left-field line -- 331 feet, to be exact -- but gets close to 400 feet out in left-center field.

Bay, however, has demonstrated often this season that he's capable of hitting the ball 400 feet to left-center field. It's already 380 feet to the spot at Fenway Park where the Green Monster meets the center-field fence, and Bay has cleared the Green Monster at that spot a couple of times this season.

Bay also played close to five seasons in Pittsburgh, another graveyard for righthanded hitters and lefthanded opposite-field hitters. Bay, as strong a power hitter as there is in the major leagues, hit 11 of his career-best 13 home runs at PNC Park in 2006 to left field or to left-center field:

(Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Bay will have plenty of options when he files for free agency in November. Safeco Field's deep alley in left-center field shouldn't eliminate Seattle as one of those options.

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