Rather than providing a Bat-Flip Royale update yesterday, like I eventually did, I was initially planning on explaining a hunch. I had the first sentence all ready to go, but for some reason or other, held off on typing. As it turned out, avoiding proclaiming “tonight will be the night a pitcher records a hit for the New York Mets” was a good decision; once again, the historically bad group failed to notch a hit.
If you think that’s harsh, I’m sorry, but it’s true. New York’s pitchers – though proficient on the mound, even without nominal ace Matt Harvey and wunderkid prospect Noah Syndergaard among their ranks – are now setting records for ineptitude at the plate.
Entering Saturday’s tilt with the Colorado Rockies at (the very hitter-friendly) Coors Field, the Mets staff had been tied in terms of futility with the 1914 St. Louis Browns, whose pitchers went hitless in their first 45 ABs of the season*. When Jenrry Mejia grounded out to end the third inning though, the title was theirs alone – the not-so-Amazins’ pitchers were then officially off to the worst offensive start for the position since modern-era (from 1900 onward) scorekeeping began.
As the above table shows, the situation is all sorts of ugly. The aforementioned Mejia has been an unvarying offender, as he’s gone 0-for-15 on the year with six strikeouts. His one career hit came over four years ago, so there’s not much hope for drastic improvement there. Bartolo Colon‘s forays at the plate, despite having warmed many a heart with some of the GIFs of the year thus far, might somehow inspire even less optimism than Mejia; the 40-year-old has incredibly struck out in 66.7% of his at-bats so far this season, and hasn’t gotten a regular-season hit since June 10, 2005. He has 1o total in 17 major-league seasons. Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee have both drawn a walk and secured two sacrifice hits, but done nothing else aside from kill (rare) Mets rallies.
Which brings me to Jon Niese, the principal cause for my optimism yesterday – the starter who I was ready to dub the chosen one, who would finally end the barren streak. Heading into Mondays matchup against Nathan Eovaldi and the Marlins, the 27-year-old had somehow drawn walks in four of his eight trips to the plate, and boasted a career .161/.251/.189 triple slash line. Surely, surely, he had it in him to finally scratch a hit and halt the record continuing on?
Nope. Instead Niese struck out twice in his three at-bats, lowering his 2014 OBP to .364, and pushed the collective failure to a stunning 54 at-bats. Yordano Ventura for goodness sakes, he of an AL team, has single-handedly logged more hits than Mets pitchers this season thanks to his hit against San Diego yesterday. It almost goes without saying that the group are still firmly rooted to the bottom of the National League positional splits table**.
Yes, the pitchers aren’t the only Mets struggling at the dish – Travis d’Arnaud (.195 batting average), Curtis Granderson (.185), Ruben Tejada (.195), and Eric Young (.214) are actually all paid to hit believe it or not) – but with such anemic offensive production elsewhere in the lineup, the Mets can ill afford to literally make an automatic out every time through the lineup. The fact of the matter is, hits from pitchers do often matter: Three of the top four NL teams in pitcher batting average last season—Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Atlanta—made the playoffs, something Mets GM Sandy Alderson surely must have been hoping for when he told staff before the season he expected 90 wins. They need to get on the board, and soon, but with Mejia due up again tonight, and the team’s best hope Niese facing Cole Hamels on Sunday too, it might be a while yet until the pitchers get off the schneid.
Good job I held off on making my bold prediction eh?
* The Atlanta Braves’ pitchers came closest in recent times, having started 0-for-39 in both 2008 and 2011.
** Which is slightly surprising in itself; I did not expect a team employing Tim Lincecum to be at the summit, though the Giants are almost exclusively there thanks to Madison Bumgarner‘s April grand slam. Meanwhile, I would have guessed the Dodgers, with the handy Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and when he returns, Clayton Kershaw, would have been nearer the top. Instead, they’re languishing in 11th, at least in terms of hitting for average.