Chris Bassitt has already had enough of these new baseballs

Chris Bassitt has already had enough of these new baseballs


Is Chris Bassitt’s complaint about MLB balls legit?
Image: Getty Images

The New York Mets have been hit by a lot of pitches this season. Currently, Mets are being hit by pitches about 0.95 times per game. They’ve been hit 19 times in 20 games. That’s six more hit batsmen than the next closest team, Baltimore, and 30 points higher than the most plunked team of 2021, Cincinnati.

As far as we know, there isn’t some vendetta against the Mets plaguing MLB pitchers right now. All we can really do is chalk it up to bad luck and hope the Mets don’t have to suffer through this for much longer. Mets’ starting pitcher Chris Bassitt doesn’t think it’s that simple. According to Bassitt, who was an All-Star with the Athletics last season, “bad baseballs’’ are to blame for this uptick in HBPs. After plunking a batter himself during his team’s victory against the Cardinals, Bassitt said “The MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs — they are bad.” Bassitt continued “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 probably has a point here. MLB doesn’t care about its players. They never have. They’d be more than happy to throw every single one of their players under the bus if they saw dollar signs at the end of that tunnel. Bassitt also went on to express his discontent with MLB’s changing of balls to be used in games: “There is no common ground with the balls. There is nothing the same, outing to outing.”

Of course, MLB has a history of swapping out balls to be used in games during a season. Just last year, MLB was caught using two different sets of baseballs depending on whether or not they wanted to see more home runs in each game. Why MLB would want to use a different style of ball that makes pitchers more wild, I haven’t the slightest idea. Walks are the least interesting part of baseball. I love plate discipline, and even I have to admit that watching a hitter and pitcher duke it out in a grueling 15-pitch at-bat only to have it end with the hitter taking a leisurely stroll to first, is disappointing. MLB has to know that pitchers having control is not only safer for the players but makes for a better viewing experience.

Something I don’t understand about Bassitt’s claims though is if every pitcher feels a difference and is struggling with control, why aren’t walks abnormally high this year? As of this morning, there have been 6.6 walks per game across MLB. That’s 3.3 per team. Last year, that number was 3.25. The year before it was 3.39. Then 3.27, 3.23, 3.26. Walk numbers have hovered around the 3.28-3.3 mark for half a decade at this point and if the lack of grip on baseballs is as prevalent as Bassitt would have us believe, why aren’t more batters being walked? Hit by pitches have also stayed relatively stagnant. Despite the Mets being hit an insanely high number of times, each team is only being plunked about .43 times per game, the same mark as 2021 and actually three points lower than in 2020.

While HBPs are at an all-time high, seeing as how they’ve happened at a rate of .4 or higher each of the last four seasons and never before then, that’s just how the game is now. Pitchers have more velocity than ever and with that much speed comes less control. Walks, strikeouts, and HBPs are all up, just not at a rate higher than the trajectory of season’s past like Bassitt seems to indicate. So, if pitchers are having so many control problems with these new balls, why haven’t control numbers plummeted this year?

Perhaps this all has something to do with MLB’s foreign substance ban in the middle of the 2021 season. Maybe pitchers are still figuring out how to grip the baseball without the use of sunscreen, rosin, or spider tack and that’s what is creating all these problems. However, according to Cardinals’ pitcher Miles Mikolas, the ball isn’t to blame. Instead, Mikolas thinks Bassitt should “take some responsibility for [his] actions.”

 I don’t doubt that MLB is experimenting with a new style of ball in 2022. In fact, MLB has experimented with tackier baseballs in the past, similar to the ones used in Japan that many MLB pitchers believe to be the best style of baseball for grip. If MLB had just told everyone they were going to experiment with different styles of baseballs this year, I don’t think anyone would be upset, but of course, if they are in fact experimenting with different baseballs, they’d do so quietly so as to not attract any unnecessary attention to themselves.

All in all, Bassitt’s claims don’t really hold any water. Sure, the Mets have been hit 19 times, but the Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to be hit at all. What’s the saying? “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I don’t know much about physics, but this seems like a pretty good equivalent. The Mets are just a really unlucky team right now, and while they probably don’t much enjoy being hit by pitches, they’ve also got the best record in baseball at 14-6. If ballplayers are as superstitious as many believe, then maybe continuing to get hit is the best way to stay on top of the NL East standings. As long as nobody gets hurt, it’ll be alright.



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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.