To date, the 2022 New York Mets season has featured a lot of wins and a lot of hit by pitches. The Mets have baseball's best record at 14-5, and their batters have been hit 18 times by pitches. No other team has been plunked more than 11 times.
Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals (NY 3, STL 0), three more Mets players were hit, including Pete Alonso up near the head. Mets pitchers hit two batters as well, and it's important to note none of the five hit by pitches looked intentional. Two came on sliders, one on a changeup, one with the bases loaded, and other sort of grazed the hitter.
"It's one of those things, whether it's intentional or not, it has to stop," Starling Marte, who was hit with the bases loaded Tuesday, told Mike Puma of the New York Post. "We're tired of it and we're going to have to do something about it if it continues to happen because it is uncomfortable every time you go out there to get hit."
"The MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs — they are bad," Bassitt said after his team's 3-0 victory over the Cardinals. "Everyone knows it. Every pitcher in the league knows it. MLB doesn't give a damn about it. They don't care. We have told them our problems with them, they don't care."
Bassitt said there is too much inconsistency among the baseballs being used this season, and the problem is exacerbated in different climates.
"There is no common ground with the balls," he said. "There is nothing the same, outing to outing."
Cardinals righty Miles Mikolas, who hit a batter during his start against the Mets on Monday night, responded to Bassitt's comments Wednesday morning, telling Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat: "It's not the ball's fault. Take some responsibility for your actions."
Teams are averaging 0.42 hit by pitches per game early this season, and the rate has been in the 0.40-0.46 range every year since 2017. It was in the 0.30-0.39 range the previous two decades, and the recent uptick the last few years seems to have as much to do with teams increasingly relying on bullpens and grip it and rip it relievers as anything.
The baseball itself has of course been a hot topic the last few years. It is inconsistent year to year and sometimes MLB changes the ball intentionally, like when the league deadened the ball last season (). In 2019, , pitchers often said the ball was too hard and too smooth, like a cue ball in pool.
There's also the foreign-substance issue. MLB cracked down on foreign substances last year and players (both pitchers and hitters) maintain they are needed for grip, otherwise more batters will be more hit by pitches. That hasn't been the case (hit by pitches rose even as sticky stuff became popular) but players are clinging to it.
"It's happened to us as hitters, but you can talk to our pitchers and they will tell you there is something with the balls," Mets catcher James McCann told Puma. "The umpires are checking them and they can't use stuff to grip the ball."
Former Marlins president David Samson discussed Bassitt's comments on Wednesday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
MLB is attempting to develop a tackier baseball, similar to the ball used in Japan, as well as a tackier rosin. Prototypes have been tested in the Arizona Fall League and in spring training. It's unknown how close MLB is to approving a tackier baseball and when it could arrive in regular season games.
The Mets are understandably frustrated -- who likes being hit by a pitch? -- though they are an outlier in the early going. No other team has come close to being hit as often and the league-wide hit by pitch rate is right in line with the last few years. The baseball might be a problem, but the Mets getting hit by so many pitches isn't evidence the same way the Pittsburgh Pirates getting hit by zero pitches (!) so far this year isn't evidence the ball is fine the way it is.