You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
There are quite a few interpretations of Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man but most all of them deal with confusion. The above graph perhaps specifically about the confusion of someone who once had all the answers but who now finds himself in a place where the old rules no longer apply.
This seems appropriate to Mets fans or, perhaps even better, Mets coaches and management. There’s a new offensive environment, one brought about due to a desire and a knowledge. The desire was for a way for hitters to beat the shifts that teams were employing more and more this decade. And the knowledge was that by elevating the ball, you could power your way past the shift.
The Mets’ pitchers seem totally unprepared for the new reality.
Starting pitching was supposed to be a team strength for the Mets. So far, eight pitchers have thrown at least 10 innings and seven of those have a HR/FB over 15 percent. Compare that to last year, when the Mets had 10 starters throw at least 10 innings and eight of them had a HR/FB rate under 14. Let’s look at a few of those pitchers:
Friday night, Steven Matz was victimized by the gopher ball, too, as he surrendered three home run balls in his second start of the year. His first start he kept the ball in the park and had a terrific game. His second appearance he fell victim to what’s been plaguing Mets starters all year and the results were not so hot.
So, how do starters combat hitters in this never-ending chess game? Whoever figures it out first will have a huge advantage. The question becomes: Do our coaches have the ability to craft a winning strategy?
Back in March, Charlie noted how popular opinion had changed on Dan Warthen. At one point, we all hated him. Then the Warthen slider became all the rage and Mets pitchers were celebrated. And now, well, let’s just say that not many people are celebrating the starters. Is Warthen the guy to help our starters get past this HR barrage? At this point, no one knows.
The battle between pitching and hitting has always been the central part of the game. So, you would think that anyone who’s been involved with this battle his entire life would be prepared to handle the newest iteration. Let’s hope that’s the case here.
Post Script – The one Mets pitcher not to be victimized by the gopher ball this year is Noah Syndergaard, who didn’t allow a single homer in 27.1 IP before going on the DL.