Year of the pitcher?
On pace for more whiffs than hits
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.”
Paul Goldschmidt is one of the many good hitters struggling to start the season.