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April 30, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Mets' Pitchers Can't Get a Hit

by Sam Miller


Gary Cohen: The Mets have a group of pitchers now who can help themselves (at the plate) a little bit more.

Ron Darling: I always say, on every ballclub there’s different fraternities—the everyday players, the bullpen guys, and the starting pitchers. If you have a close-knit bunch of starting pitchers that are talented as far as their pitching is concerned, they start to get uber competitive with the hitting, too, and you have a lot of fun with it. Who gets the most bunts down? Who’s got the most RBIs? Those are the things that make it the most fun.

***

The Mets’ staff is 0-for-42, after an 0-for-1 Tuesday night. The average NL team’s pitchers have seven hits, and no other team has fewer than three. The Mets’ pitchers are terrible, and in our tradition of not overlooking the pathetic efforts of elite athletes who are unsuccessfully trying their best, we require an accounting for their terribleness. These are the Mets’ pitchers, hitting.

1. Gonzalez Germen, 0-for-1, one strikeout.

The good: Germen, a reliever, batted once last year and struck out on three pitches—though he did swing the bat once. This time, he struck out on four pitches, and he swung the bat no times, having made his intentions as clear as a preacher’s son picking up a preacher’s daughter on prom night. Germen smiled and showed a respectful amount of interest, then dutifully helped each offering get home unmolested, always keeping 24 inches between himself and the pitch.

The bad: After the strikeout, Germen cuts in between the catcher and the umpire to get back to his dugout.


In the best reading of his action, he’s a pioneer, blazing a new trail that generations of struck-out pitchers and spice traders can use to cut across the wide expanse between the batter’s box and the dugout. In the more realistic interpretation, he was as disoriented as a Price Is Right contestant who spun the big wheel, got five cents twice, and wasn’t sure whether he should go back to his seat or if he’s supposed to go to some room with snacks and tax forms for him to fill out.

2. Dillon Gee, 0-for-9, four strikeouts.

The good: Gee hit, without a doubt, the hardest ball that a Mets pitcher has hit. Unfortunately, as the old baseball saying goes, “don’t try sneaking a line drive past Mark Trumbo in left field.” He probably came the second-closest to getting a hit, too, when Paul Goldschmidt played in about 65 feet on the grass against him with the bases loaded; Gee grounded one off Goldschmidt’s glove to the second baseman, whose throw back to Goldschmidt beat Gee to the bag. Results aside, of the seven Mets pitchers who have tried to get a hit, Gee takes it by far the most seriously, shortening his swing with two strikes, running out every groundball at full speed, and doing all sorts of things that resemble a three-year-old who thinks he’s playing video games with his dad even though his dad didn’t plug the controller in.

The bad: Looks a little too happy to strike out. Has a happy little strikeout hop.

3. Bartolo Colon, 0-for-8, six strikeouts.

The Good: Now at .096/.104/.096 for his career, with the third-highest strikeout rate among all hitting pitchers, Colon is probably/arguably/probably arguably the worst hitter currently getting regular at-bats in the majors. (This is the paragraph about "The Good.") He’s fairly aware of this, and when he gets into one of his disinterested moods he’s as contentedly disinterested as Mr. Magoo driving through construction. When he does swing, mostly the problem seems to be with his helmet, which is too large for him:

Colon isn’t imitating a hitter so much as he’s imitating a bobblehead doll with a wheat thin balanced on it, and we are all a very, very, very bored little boy to keep playing this game. Other than that, things are great with Colon. If he ever puts an actual ball in play, he’ll already be one step on his way to third base.

The Bad: He also can’t bunt, and he especially can’t bunt without making funny faces:

4. Jenrry Mejia, 0-for-12, six strikeouts.

The Good: Shows some promise in the sticking-out-his-leg-to-try-to-get-hit-by-a-pitch game,

though at this point his ambitions are unrealistic. Clocked him at 4.6 to first (including some ease-up in the final 20 feet), which isn’t bad for a right-handed pitcher.

The Bad: If Colon is the Vic Mackey of Mets pitchers hitting, Mejia is, as the unit’s Shane Vendrell, the truly tragic figure, growing increasingly corrupt under the influence of his rotund mentor. He takes by far the worst swings of the group, including Colon:


His helplessness is so bad that his manager assigned him a sacrifice bunt up by nine runs in the sixth inning; so bad that he kept the sacrifice on even with two strikes, at which point the opposing pitcher threw a fastball at his hands. To this, Mejia glared at the pitcher, as if he is the one who should be filing the unwritten rules lawsuit. He also shows inclinations toward bat-blaming.

5. Jon Niese, 0-for-4, two strikeouts

The Good: At 16 percent, his swing rate through Tuesday was the lowest in baseball, and at 0 percent his O-swing rate is the lowest in baseball (tied with Cole Gillespie), for which he has been rewarded with four walks and a .500 OBP. Niese has the highest career walk rate of any active hitting pitcher, so this is what he does. Shoot, even when he swings and puts the ball in play, he jogs down to first lazily, exactly as if he had drawn ball four.

There’s no bad for Niese. There is no greater goal for a pitcher than to draw walks.

6. Zack Wheeler, 0-for-7, three strikeouts

The Good: Loves to cut. Wheeler’s got a big hack that he likes to unleash at high fastballs. He has the upright power hitter’s stance, elbow up, stare intense, a little bit of Bryce Harper in that swing:

He, like Gee, very nearly got one safely into the outfield, but as they always say, “don’t go trying to hit groundballs past Dan Uggla, he’ll only make a diving stop and then when he gets up to throw you out and inexplicably drops the ball he’ll be charged with an error while you remain hitless.”

The bad: Batting on the wrong side of the plate. Zack Wheeler is right-handed, but he’s batting like a lefty. This seems like an easy fix.

7. Carlos Torres, 0-for-1.

Just an extra in this movie, a waitress who mumbles something in one of the takes and sneaks into the closed captioning. One at-bat late in a blowout. Grounded to first base. Ran pretty hard. Nothing to see.


So the Mets are hitless. Are they a threat to set any records for awfulness? Probably not, based on these 42 at-bats. Colon is historically bad, Mejia is about 94 percent as bad as Colon, and Germen is a threat to everybody in his vicinity. But Niese can clearly hit, Wheeler's got enough oomph in his swing to gap a few, and Gee doesn't appear to be significantly worse than Ruben Tejada. As a staff their strikeout rate is barely worse than the league's pitchers-hitting average, and if you watch all 42 outs you can see clearly enough where the Mets could easily be matching the league's pitchers' .223 BABIP right now. These guys look funny, yes. But history, I feel confident, will not remember them.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  New York Mets,  Pitcher Hitting

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