With 11 games to spare, at least the Mets can use the rest of the reason to ice their bruises.
On Wednesday afternoon, during an otherwise lackluster loss to the Brewers, the Mets finally broke the record they were trying to avoid all season. Or at least, wanted to avoid, as one member of the Mets has shown no interest in actually avoiding the pitches that have so consistently drilled them.
“I’m closer to the plate and I don’t move,” said Mark Canha, whose 24 hit by pitches this year are the most on a team that has now been hit more than any other in the live ball era.
Canha was hit twice on Wednesday and three times during the trio of games in Milwaukee. He escaped the midwestern town nursing a few baseball-sized blemishes, but also the new franchise record for hit by pitches, passing Brandon Nimmo’s 22 in 2018.
“Pitchers pitch in a lot now,” Canha sighed. “It just kind of works out that way.”
The team’s record breaker came in the top of the ninth of Wednesday’s affair, when Luis Guillorme took the 106th bean ball of the Mets’ season. Remarkably, it was Guillorme’s first time ever being hit by a pitch in a major league game, making him the 17th different Met to end up on the painful receiving end of someone’s wayward pitch.
“I got the ball,” said Buck Showalter, the manager whose reactions to all of the inside pitches have become a popular meme.
“It would be obscene to tell you what I’m going to do with it. I gave it to the hitting coaches. They can do whatever they want to. Not a one of them are intentional. Obviously, there’s an issue there somewhere.”
Showalter has been adamant all season that the pitchers inflicting so much physical pain on his hitters are not doing so on purpose. He’s touted “a pretty good eye” for that sort of thing. Because of that, he’s gone up to the line several times, but never fully launched into a formal rant about the baseballs being too hard to grip. Chris Bassitt broached the subject earlier in the season, saying the league has “a very big problem with the baseballs” and isn’t particularly inclined to fix it.
“They’re bad. Everyone knows it,” Bassitt said in April. “Every pitcher in the league knows it. MLB doesn’t give a damn about it. They don’t care.”
The Mets got through most of the season, in freakish fashion, without the issue actually taking anybody out. When Nationals’ reliever Steve Cishek cracked Francisco Lindor’s tooth with an up-and-in pitch during the second game of the year, the shortstop was back in the lineup the very next day. They made it all the way to September before a significant hit-by-pitch injury, when Starling Marte got one in Pittsburgh (his 13th of the year) that fractured part of his finger. That happened over two weeks ago and Marte has not played since, inviting some skepticism about whether he’ll play at all in the remaining regular season games.
“It’s frustrating,” Showalter told reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve got some personal feelings about why it happens so much. But, I’m sure MLB doesn’t want to hear about it in this format.”
“Sure we’re frustrated,” Canha agreed. “It’s not, like, a great thing to have happen to your team.”
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As early as the third week of the season, the Mets were on pace to break the record, which was set by the 2021 Cincinnati Reds. Canha and Marte are not strangers to this life either. Both have experienced at least five different seasons of getting hit ten or more times. Marte now has seven such seasons on his Baseball-Reference page and ranks second among active players in career HBP’s, trailing only Anthony Rizzo. Canha is eighth on that list.
“When you acquire a guy, part of the stuff is on-base percentage,” Showalter explained. “Part of the conversation is hit by pitches, but in order to get hit by pitches, you run the risk of having an issue. Our guys just don’t give. It’s not something they’re doing, it’s just wild pitches. I mean, you see [the pitches]. They’re not close to the plate, they’re all the way across the batter’s box.”
“I can’t explain it,” Canha said. “We have a lot of good hitters, dangerous hitters. You have to pitch good hitters in. We tend to get hit a lot. It’s hard to explain, I’m not sure why. It’s like a broken record at this point. We just kind of roll our eyes when it happens now and move on. There’s nothing you can do, except capitalize on it.”
Perhaps these new-look Mets, who did a sparkling job of overhauling the team during the offseason, possess some sort of voodoo that makes cutters run in on them and breaking balls back up into their ribs. As annoying as it is, there is also an element of head-shaking, almost humorous disbelief to this whole thing.
The fact that the phenomenon started in April and has not ceased at all, is quite fascinating. So too is the part where the Mets have been hit 106 times and no other team has been hit 100 times, or even 90. As of Thursday morning, the San Francisco Giants are second in the league with 89 plunks. Lindor and Guillorme are also the only Mets (rookies not included) to set a career-high in the category this year. It’s not like everybody is getting hit more often, pitchers are just spreading the beanings around in a very giving manner.
And again, there are still 11 games to go, meaning that each additional hit by pitch extends the Mets’ MLB record, allows some of those players to chase their personal highs and unfortunately, creates more opportunities for damaging injuries.
If that happens, don’t expect Showalter to remain so light-hearted about the whole thing.
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