The New York Mets have been hit by a lot of pitches this season. Pitches plague the Mets these days 0.95 times per game. They were hit 19 times in 20 games. That’s six batters more than the next closest team, Baltimore, and 30 points more than the team with the most bats of 2021, Cincinnati.
As far as we know, there’s no revenge against the Mets plaguing MLB pitchers right now. All we can really do is blame it on bad luck and hope the Mets don’t have to suffer much longer. Mets starting pitcher Chris Bassitt doesn’t think it’s that simple. According to Bassitt, who was an All-Star with the Athletics last season, “bad baseballs” are to blame for this surge in HBPs. After flattening a batsman himself in his team’s win against the Cardinals, Bassitt said, “MLB has a very big problem with baseballs — they’re bad.” Bassitt continued, “Everybody knows it. Every pitcher in the league knows it. MLB doesn’t care. They do not care. We told them our problems with them, they don’t care.” Bassitt probably has a point here. MLB doesn’t care about its players. They never have. They would be more than happy to throw every single one of their players under the bus if they saw dollar signs at the end of that tunnel. Bassitt also expressed his dissatisfaction with MLB’s replacement of balls to be used in games: “There’s nothing in common with the balls. There is nothing the same from trip to trip.”
Of course, MLB has a long history of swapping out balls for use in games throughout the season. Just last year, MLB got caught with two different sets of baseball depending on whether or not they wanted to see more home runs in each game. Why MLB would want to use a different style of ball that makes pitchers wilder I have no idea. Walks are the least interesting part of baseball. I love plate discipline, and even I have to admit that it’s disappointing to watch a hitter and a pitcher battle it out in a grueling 15 pitch-at-bat, only to end up with the Hitter takes a leisurely stroll to first. MLB needs to know that pitchers who are in control are not only safer for players, but also make for a better viewing experience.
Something I don’t understand about Bassitt’s claims is if every pitcher feels a difference and struggles with control, why aren’t the walks unusually high this year? As of this morning, there were 6.6 walks per game in MLB. That’s 3.3 per team. Last year it was 3.25. In the previous year it was 3.39. Then 3.27, 3.23, 3.26. At this point, walk numbers have hovered around the 3.28 to 3.3 mark for half a decade, and if lack of grip in baseballs is as widespread as Bassitt would have us believe, then why aren’t more batters gone? Hit-by-pitches have also remained relatively flat. Even though the Mets get hit insanely often, each team just gets thrown around 0.43 times per gamethe same mark as 2021 and even three points lower than 2020.
While HBPs are at an all-time high, having occurred at a rate of 0.4 or higher for the last four seasons and never before, the game just is now. Pitchers have more speed than ever, and with so much speed comes less control. Walks, strikeouts, and HBPs are all up, just not at a rate higher than last season’s trajectory, Bassitt seems to indicate. So if pitchers are having so many control issues with these new balls, why haven’t the control numbers gone down this year?
Maybe it all has something to do with MLB’s foreign matter ban in the middle of the 2021 season. Maybe pitchers are still figuring out how to grip the baseball without sunscreen, rosin, or spider nails, and that’s what’s causing all these problems. However, according to Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas, the ball is not to blame. Instead, Mikolas feels that Bassitt “should take some responsibility [his] Actions.”
I have no doubt that MLB will be experimenting with a new style of ball in 2022. In fact, MLB has experimented with this stickier baseballs in the past, similar to those in Japan, which many MLB pitchers believe is the best style of baseball for grip. If MLB just told everyone they were experimenting with different types of baseballs this year, no one would be upset, but of course, if they did experiment with different baseballs, they would do so quietly so as not to draw undue attention.
All in all, Bassitt’s claims don’t really hold water. Sure, the Mets have been hit 19 times, but the Pittsburgh Pirates have never been hit. what is the saying “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I don’t know much about physics, but that seems like a pretty good equivalent. The Mets are just a really unlucky team right now, and while they probably don’t particularly enjoy getting hit by pitches, they also have the best record in baseball at 14-6. If ballers are as superstitious as many believe, then perhaps keeping getting hit is the best way to stay at the top of the NL East rankings. As long as nobody gets hurt, everything is fine.