Twenty-eight players have been hit by at least four pitches during the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
Five of them play for the Mets.
What started as a quirky but painful oddity is no longer funny. The Mets started the season by getting hit 18 times in the first 19 games, putting them on pace to shatter the single season mark. Entering play on Wednesday, they’ve been dotted up 40 times in 58 games, still putting them on pace to break the record of 105 hits by pitches set by last year’s Reds.
In late-April, as the hit-by-pitch barrage showed no signs of slowing down, Mets manager Buck Showalter said, “It’s painful, and it’s also scary. You got less than a second to react.”
That must be how the team felt on Tuesday night as yet another pitch struck a Mets’ batter. Unfortunately, this time the pitch could have a much bigger impact than helping the team chase a record they do not want. Yu Darvish’s 95 mile per hour sinker bit Pete Alonso on the right hand, taking the Mets’ All-Star first baseman out of the game and potentially out of several others moving forward.
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When Showalter answered a reporter’s question about Alonso only missing a few games with, “I love your optimism but I don’t share it at this point,” he certainly hinted that this could be a major blow for the surging Mets. Though initial x-rays didn’t show a fracture or break, Alonso looked to be in excruciating pain, as one would expect after getting hit by a baseball moving that fast.
Of the five Mets that have been hit at least four times — Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, Starling Marte and Francisco Lindor — three of them have a track record of getting regularly drilled. Nimmo led the league when he was hit 22 times in 2018, a dubious distinction that also earned him the Mets’ single-season record. Marte once had 24 pitches burrow in on him while playing for Pittsburgh in 2013. The veteran outfielder has played six different seasons with double-digit HBP totals. Since 2018, Canha has been hit by the post pitches of anyone not named Anthony Rizzo, the human target that turned getting nicked into an art form. Last season, Canha’s 27 hit by pitches led the major leagues.
While Alonso has taken his fair share — he was the victim of 21 bean balls when he set the rookie record for home runs in 2019 — he also didn’t get this many pitches in his kitchen last season. Alonso’s reasonable total of 12 hits by pitches in 2021 is looking like a pleasant walk in the park now. At his current pace, Alonso could end up with 20 baseball-sized bruises by the end of 2022. That is, if this recent HBP-caused injury doesn’t keep him out for too long.
As Showalter has crowed all year while watching his players dodge inside pitches, at a certain point the pitcher’s intent doesn’t matter anymore. Whether they’re trying to hit the Mets or not, it’s happening at a ridiculous clip. Now that the Mets have become one of the bullies of the National League, though, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of these pitches are meant to intimidate them. With Alonso and Lindor (the team’s unquestioned stars) both on MLB’s hit by pitch leaderboard, some basic old school baseball logic tells us that opposing pitchers are trying to hunt the Mets’ biggest game.
Lindor has never been hit by more than eight pitches in a season. Already at four through his first 255 plate appearances, the shortstop is getting hit in 1.56% of his trips to the plate, a significant bump from his career average of 0.7%. Should Lindor make 700 plate appearances this year, he’s in line for roughly 11 pitches off his body, a body the Mets are heavily invested in.
That’s a scary proposition for a team that’s already had Alonso taken out by a wayward pitch. Any team that’s been hit as much as the Mets will feel a certain way about it, but it’s definitely peculiar that Alonso and Lindor have specifically had it so bad. An easy way for opponents to beat the Mets is to have Alonso and/or Lindor out of the lineup. One pitch from Darvish on Tuesday night in San Diego has done that to Alonso, and whether he was trying to do that or not, the Padres’ pitcher has joined in on a troublesome trend.
The Mets are, still, getting hit far more often than their peers. The Giants have the NL’s second-highest HBP total at 28, out of earshot from the Mets all the way up at 40. If once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern, 40 with a potentially debilitating injury to Alonso might be grounds for an investigation.