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Friday, 23 April 2021 18:54

Mets affected by both pandemic and epidemic

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The Mets have been victims of the pandemic…and the epidemic. The Mets had the start of their season postponed due to the effects of the pandemic hitting their opponent, the Washington Nationals. And it seems that the Mets have now been hit by the very same epidemic of poor hitting that has affected most of the rest of the Major Leagues thus far this season.

The Mets came into the season with questions about the pitching staff but the one “sure thing” was the power-packed offense that would be taking the field every day. However, other than the start of Brandon Nimmo, the Mets offense has been dreadful.

While the Mets were embarrassingly being swept by the Chicago Cubs, Ron Darling told the story of a comment Kris Bryant made during a pre-game press conference prior to his very first game at Wrigley Field in 2015: “My goal every game is to go out there and hit the ball in the air four times.” Not a single coach I had, and I had some pretty good ones over the years, ever said to me, “Hey Alan, try to hit the ball in the air.” Line drives were the ultimate goal. But with my speed, especially when I was hitting from the left side of the plate, I was just trying to put the bat on the ball and get it on the ground and through the holes.

As Darling said in a follow up to the quote of Bryant, the game has since changed. But has it been for the better?

Launch angles…exit velocity…linear weights…I grew up associating those terms with a NASA spacecraft launch. Hitting a baseball? It was simple…see the ball, hit the ball; put the bat on the ball; level swing. Throw simple out the window.

The thought process of “Take two and hit to right…” is a lost art. It is rare that a hitter goes up to the plate and actually takes a level swing and hits the ball where it is pitched; that a player goes up with the actual intent to hit the ball to the opposite field. Everyone is so “pull happy” trying to jerk the ball out of the park on every swing. Which leads to the elimination of what was designed to be a baseball alignment and led to “the shift.” That “shift” leaves wide open holes. So why not just smack one toward one of those holes? Hit ‘em where they ain’t don’t work anymore? Wouldn’t that concept eliminate the ability to employ the shift? Forgetting about laying down a bunt…players simply don’t know how.

Players would rather suffer the fate of “…hit into the shift…” (I am so sick of hearing that said during a broadcast) or a strikeout than getting a single through the hole?

How about the good old “…a walk is as good as a hit?” It used to be. In fact, way, way back over a century ago, walks were counted as hits. But, apparently, the concept of “getting on base” has become meaningless.

It has become acceptable to strikeout well over 100 times while trying to launch home runs into the upper stratosphere. And so we are subjected to games that are, in reality, altered versions of Home Run Derby.

And what gets me is that it is, in fact, possible to hit for power and not strikeout. It’s been done.

Babe Ruth. Remember him? He hit 714 home runs over a 22-year career. Although the first five years he was mostly a pitcher and so his hitting stats were mostly compiled over 17 seasons. Regardless, he walloped over 700 dingers and some how, some way, incredibly never struck out 100 times in any season. Ruth actually hit for a .342 career batting average and had an on base percentage of .474! The Babe walked over 700 more times than he struck out during his illustrious career, striking out 12 times every 100 plate appearances.

Mike Trout, considered to be the best all-around player in today’s era, has launched 308 home runs, thus far, now in his 11th season. He has struck out over 100 times in seven of those seasons first 10 seasons, topping out with 184 K’s in a season in which he had an OBP of .377. He is on pace to strike out over 700 times more than he walks during his career, striking out at a rate of 21 times every 100 plate appearances…the complete antithesis of Ruth. Trout is averaging 152 K’s for his career, while sporting a .305 batting average and not-to-shabby .419 OBP.

In another era, a 5-foot, 7-inch Yogi Berra was able to smack 358 home runs. He was considered a “bad ball” hitter…meaning…he could hit anything especially pitches well out of the strike zone. He swung at anything and everything. And guess what? He never, ever, struck out more than 38 times in any season. Over the course of 19 seasons he struck out a total of 414 times while compiling a .285 batting average and OBP of .348 while hitting those 358 pitches out of the park.  He struck out five (5) times every 100 plate appearances. FIVE!!!

How about Mike Piazza? He made it to the Hall of Fame after clobbering 427 home runs. And you know what? He, too, never struck out 100 times in any season while hitting .308 with an OBP of .377. He “launched” some pretty long balls himself.

So you believe that the manager Luis Rojas is at fault because the team is not hitting? Take a look around the Major Leagues and all around baseball today. Teams are not “hitting” because they are plagued by this epidemic. Players are suffering from the delusions created by launch angles, exit velocities, and linear weights. Perhaps if they got back to “see the ball, hit the ball” and “hit ‘em where they ain’t” we might see less strikeouts, less hitting into the shift, and less of the new game of Home Run Derby and more of the real game of baseball. I guess I am just a traditional kind of guy.

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About New York Mets Mania

Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.