Five decades ago, in the now infamous summer of 1968, baseball faced a serious problem: Nobody could score.
St. Louis Cardinals legend Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA, still a record for the live-ball era, which began in 1920. Hitters reached base less than 30% of the time, a level of ineptitude that harkened back to the 19th century. Teams finished with a combined .237 batting average, the lowest in history, resulting in just 3.42 runs a game. That winter, the league lowered the mound in an effort to generate offense, the lasting legacy of a season known as the “Year of the Pitcher.”
But as ugly as that looked, it in some ways doesn’t compare to the state of affairs today. For the first time ever, major-league batters strike out more often than they record hits, the ultimate distillation of the realities of modern baseball, where power—on both sides of the ball—reigns.
Never before had MLB seen a full month with more total strikeouts than hits. There hadn’t even been a month where the gap between the two was less than 100. April 2017 was the closest the sport had come to strikeouts overtaking hits, with a difference of 138.
Until now, that is.
The K Zone
The 2018 season so far is the first year in MLB history with more strikeouts than hits.
It turns out nearly tossing seven perfect innings in one’s major league debut earns one some leash. Pirates pitching prospect Nick Kingham was expected to simply make a spot start on Sunday against the Cardinals. However, he lost a bid for a perfect game with two outs in the seventh inning on Sunday when Paul DeJong singled to left field. He was lifted after seven, having thrown 98 pitches. The right-hander gave up just the one hit with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Kingham is the Pirates’ No. 12 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The right-hander was expected to have made his major league debut a while ago, but was slowed by Tommy John surgery, which shortened his 2015-16 seasons.
Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, the team leader in hits, has a sore right throwing shoulder and wasn’t in the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said Gennett would “certainly” be available to pinch hit.
Gennett, who had started all but one of the team’s 28 games before Monday, has been dealing with the soreness since spring training, when he made a dive for a ball, Riggleman said.
Gennett served as the designated hitter in the finale of the Reds’ series in Minnesota on Sunday.
“He’s a tough little guy. He wants to be in there. It was tender enough that he’s not really getting his arm in a slot to throw from. He certainly can pinch hit,” Riggleman said.
Gennett hit a surprising 27 home runs last season after he was picked up from the Milwaukee Brewers on waivers late in spring training. His next highest total was 14 in 2016 for the Brewers, when he had 45 more plate appearances than he did last year.
Gennett has only two home runs this season, although he’s tied for second on the team with 14 RBIs, one behind Adam Duvall. He’s hitting .301.
“We’re going to give him at least today and see where we’ll go with it,” Riggleman said. “Thursday’s an off day. I don’t know if it’ll go through that. His shoulder’s a little tender. Some days are better than others. The cold weather was worse than other days.”
Rookie Alex Blandino started at second base on Monday night.
–Field Level Media
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Ray had an MRI on Monday that revealed a Grade 2 strain of the oblique, which generally refers to a moderate tear of the muscle.
“He’s going to miss a little time,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said on Monday. “Every situation is a little different. And some guys can take two weeks, some guys can take two years. It’s impossible for me to predict a time frame.
“I do know Robbie is very determined to work as hard as he possibly can, to get back as quickly as he possibly can.”
Lovullo said the Diamondbacks have not yet determined who will take Ray’s rotation spot, but that he expects the rotation to stay intact until Ray’s turn comes up again.
Ray’s injury is the second to a Diamondbacks starting pitcher this season. Right-hander Taijuan Walker is done for the season after suffering a torn UCL earlier in April.