When there is no real baseball for four days, stories like Adam Wainwright grooving a pitch to Derek Jeter in the All-Star game has legs. The game is an exhibition, except it is not, since now home field advantage in the World Series is decided by the winner. Really, it’s just silly, and baseball’s attempt to market the game has overtaken what makes sense.
All of this grooved baseball talk got me thinking about grooved pitches in actual games. No, pitchers don’t intentionally groove a pitch when the games count in the standings, but there are plenty of pitches that end up right over the plate, as meatballs. Luckily, thanks to Baseball Savant, we can look up how the Mets performed against meatball pitches this year. We will define a meatball as not only a pitch right over the middle of the plate, but also a fastball. Essentially, we are looking for “grooved” pitches in the form of fastballs in the middle of the strike zone.
Of Mets’ hitters with at least ten at-bats ending on a meatball pitch, Eric Young is the best slugger. Surprisingly, none of the four qualified Mets hit with a slugging percentage above .500. However, of the 75 players in all of baseball with at least ten at-bats decided by a grooved fastball, close to half slugged below .500. Andrew McCutchen was the best hitter, slugging 1.750, and, wait for it, Ruben Tejada, was the worst hitter in all of baseball against fastballs down the middle of the plate with a measly .083 slugging percentage.
Does any of this mean anything? Not really. But if we are going to talk “grooved” pitches, we might as well in the context of the Mets.Statistics courtesy of Baseball Savant.