PHOENIX (AP) — New York Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt has a theory about why his batting teammates turned into targets at home plate in the first month of the season.
“MLB has a very big problem with baseballs. They are bad,” he said on Tuesday. “Everybody knows that. Every pitcher in the league knows that. They’re bad. They don’t care. MLB doesn’t care. We told them our issues with them and they don’t care.
It’s understandable that Bassitt wants to protect his teammates. The Mets have been hit by pitches 18 times in their first 19 games this season — including three times against the Cardinals on Tuesday night — which is by far the most in the league.
They were also hit by numerous bullets in the head and neck, which can be particularly dangerous.
But a look at MLB-wide stats shows a complicated picture that’s likely affected by the usual cold April weather and chance. The league’s RAP rate is actually slightly lower than last season. The Pittsburgh Pirates have gone their first 17 games without anyone being hit by a pitch.
Yet this does not change Bassitt’s main thesis.
Are baseballs really “bad”? Maybe “inconsistent” is the best word.
“They’re rubbed differently by different people in different climates and different places,” Braves pitcher Collin McHugh said. “I understand the challenge of trying to get a consistent product under all of these different variables. There’s no doubt that the ball you get on the first will be different from the one you get on the eighth and from lot to lot. other.
“Sometimes the ball feels small in your hand. Sometimes they feel fat. Very often, these are real slippery and dusty slicks. So you see some guys over there rubbing it. They really don’t try to rub anything on the ball, they try to get that layer of dust off the ball because it’s just a little slippery.
Last year, MLB cracked down on pitchers who used sticky substances – remember Spider Tack? — to try to better grip baseballs. These days, umpires routinely check the gloves and hands of pitchers as they come off the field.
The crackdown was met with a lukewarm response. It is true that pitchers can use sticky substances to spin the ball faster to get a harder break on off-speed pitches. But it also helped pitchers know where the ball was going, especially in cold weather.
MLB tried to standardize their baseballs and made the use of the cellar mandatory this season. The cellar is used to try to make baseballs behave the same whether the game is in the air in Colorado, New York or Atlanta.
Let’s say it’s a work in progress.
“Sometimes pitchers just, the ball looks a bit like a cue ball,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “And there aren’t always a lot of rhymes or reasons for it. Sometimes it has to do with the cold, and sometimes it’s just, you take the ball and it feels a little foreign.
Obviously, this is a difficult problem to solve. MLB said it continues to search for answers.
“MLB is always concerned about protecting batters from dangerous pitches,” MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said. “We closely analyze trends in the game and have active conversations with our players and coaches to address concerns. Through April 26, league-wide stats show hit-per-pitch rates and wild pitch rates are down from previous seasons. However, one club has been hit more than twice as often as the league average so far in 2022, which we will continue to monitor. »
This team is the Mets.
The drama continued Wednesday afternoon after Mets third baseman JD Davis was hit by an ankle pitch and had to leave the game. An inning later, Mets pitcher Yoan López loudly threw Cardinals star Nolan Arenado, who reacted angrily.
The benches have cleared. Arenado and Cardinals first base coach Stubby Clapp was ejected. Pete Alonso was tackled in the scrum.
And so on.
Mets pitcher Max Scherzer — one of the best in the game — allowed just one hit in seven innings in 48-degree weather last week against San Francisco. Even in victory, baseballs were a problem.
“I think everyone was coming back saying how hard it was to grab the ball today,” Scherzer said. “When you’re not sweating it’s like throwing a cue ball tonight. Everyone was hanging on to everything. Just part of the game right now. So just frustrating.
“You know, everyone has to deal with it, so it’s not like I can complain about it. It just has to be dealt with.”
AP baseball writers Ronald Blum and Jake Seiner, AP sportswriter Charles Odum, and freelance writers David Solomon and Joe Harris contributed to this story.
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