Year of the pitcher?

On pace for more whiffs than hits

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - MLB - Greg Moore The Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY Net­work

You think Paul Gold­schmidt has been slump­ing? Well, he has, but he’s not alone.

No­body in Ari­zona seems to be able to hit.

Look around the Di­a­mond­backs club­house and see that aside from Goldy’s early-sea­son skid, en­ter­ing the week, Alex Avila (.130), Chris­tian Walker (.133), Steven Souza Jr. (.103), Jar­rod Dyson (.184), Deven Mar­rero (.196), Ke­tel Marte (.228) and Nick Ahmed (.222) were toil­ing.

This isn’t just a Di­a­mond­backs prob­lem.

Dodgers hit­ters have mostly been dodg­ing base­balls with their bats. Only Matt Kemp (.317) was hit­ting bet­ter than .300, and only the Mar­lins had fewer home runs in the Na­tional League.

The Dodgers’ team bat­ting av­er­age (.239) was seven points be­low the base­ball­wide av­er­age (.246), which if it holds through the sea­son would be the low­est since 1972 (.244).

‘Wait till the All-Star break’

But that’s a big “if.” “I don’t know what’s go­ing on base­ball-wide,” Di­a­mond­backs man­ager Torey Lovullo said. “I lis­ten and pay at­ten­tion to a lot of dif­fer­ent things. I know the num­bers are down. … I don’t know the rea­son why, right now. Prob­a­bly, it’s too small of a sam­ple size to say that it’s a trend that’s go­ing to con­tinue.”

Na­tion­als ace Max Scherzer agrees that we just have to give it more time.

“Seems like the first three weeks of the sea­son. it was aw­fully cold,” he said. “Across the league, I mean, there were rain­outs, snowouts, you name it. Typ­i­cally, pitch­ers hold the ad­van­tage when it’s re­ally cold, the ball doesn’t travel as far. That might ex­plain it. Wait till the All-Star break and see how things are look­ing in June and July.”

The Astros got it to­gether against the Ath­let­ics and Rangers, scor­ing 36 runs over six games. But Hous­ton scored four runs to­tal in their two losses at Chase Field be­fore that. And be­fore that, A.J. Hinch’s men had been shut out in two of three games against the Yan­kees.

The Na­tion­als are an­other story, av­er­ag­ing fewer than five runs per game this month, but Bryce Harper isn’t con­tribut­ing the way fans are used to. He was hit­ting .236 this sea­son, al­most 50 points be­low his ca­reer av­er­age, dragged down by go­ing 11for-51 in May (.216).

But he did have 11 RBI and five home runs this month. Maybe they’re early out­liers. Af­ter last sea­son’s all-time high of 1.26 homers per game, hit­ters are a bit down this sea­son with 1.15 per con­test.

‘You strike out more’

It’s not for a lack of ef­fort. So far, hit­ters across base­ball were strik­ing out 8.7 times per game, up from last sea­son’s all-time record of 8.25, which was up from the record set in 2016 of 8.03, which was up from … you get the pic­ture.

“The game’s just chang­ing,” Di­a­mond­backs closer Brad Boxberger said. “Ev­ery­one’s try­ing to hit home runs. When you try to hit a home run ev­ery time, you strike out more. … That’s the new trend in base­ball right now.”

With so many hit­ters swing­ing and miss­ing, Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred could in­stall wind­mills in the out­field and power each sta­dium for the rest of the sea­son.

Strike­outs have risen steadily since 2008. Some­where, Reg­gie Jack­son and Nolan Ryan are pass­ing the In­fin­ity Stones back and forth and cack­ling over the ef­fec­tive­ness of their plan for world dom­i­na­tion.

The game is threat­en­ing to have more strike­outs than hits this sea­son. If it holds up, it would be the first time in base­ball his­tory. Again, a big “if.” “We’ve got a lot of base­ball left,” said Marte, the Di­a­mond­backs’ sec­ond base­man. “We’ll con­tinue to work hard, like we al­ready do, and I know ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be good.”

JOE CAMPOREALE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Paul Gold­schmidt is one of the many good hit­ters strug­gling to start the sea­son.

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