Explaining Chris Bassitt’s Struggles
On May 18, Max Scherzer removed himself from his start, and he would be placed on the IL. Combined with injuries to Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill, this made Chris Bassitt the de facto ace of this New York Mets pitching staff. He has been anything but that.
Since May 18, Bassitt is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and a 6.40 FIP. Opposing batters are hitting .261/.327/.544 against him. He has seen his strikeouts go from 9.8 per nine to 8.7 while his walks went from 2.5 per nine to 3.6.
The loss to the San Diego Padres was a new low from Bassitt. He was knocked out of the game after allowing seven runs (six earned) over 3 1/3 innings. After the game, Bassitt said, “I’m beyond embarrassed. It’s something that literally I’ve never gone through. To say it’s frustrating would be a big-time understatement.”
Looking at Bassitt, he doesn’t appear injured. Per Baseball Savant, he has had fairly consistent velocity on his fastball. The spin on his pitches, which was never outstanding, remains the same. Looking at it that way, it is hard to ascertain why he is struggling. Digging deeper, you see some of the issues Bassitt is having.
One big problem for Bassitt right now is left-handed batters. So far, this season, left-handed batters are hitting .246/.333/.483 off of Bassitt with a .363 wOBA. In contrast, right-handed batters only hitting .206/.266/.321 with a .271 wOBA.
Case in point, look at the game against the Padres. Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth, Nomar Mazara, Trent Grisham, and Sergio Alcantara combined to go 4-for-8 with a double, 4 RBI, two walks, and three strikeouts. He was knocked out of the game when Cronenworth hit his RBI double. He was knocked out of the game by the Padres’ left-handed batters.
Now, it should be noted this is a fairly recent phenomenon. He started the season off well against left-handed batters, and Bassitt has been fairly platoon neutral over his career. To wit, before Scherzer hit the IL, left-handed batters only had a .273 wOBA against Bassitt. This begs the question as to what exactly has happened to Bassitt.
Well, the biggest change might’ve been the loss of James McCann. There is the caveat of each of these being small sample sizes, but here is how Bassitt has fared with each catcher behind the plate:
- James McCann 2.61 ERA, .193/.265/.303
- Tomas Nido 6.45 ERA, .281/.330/.583
- Patrick Mazeika 1.54 ERA, .175/.313/.200
Again, this is a very small sample size, but it is important to note that Bassitt is a very difficult pitcher for a catcher to call. He is a pitcher who throws six different pitches. With his velocity and spin, he mostly gets batters out by changing eye levels, living on the shadow zone, and pitch sequencing. This is where he strived with McCann and to a certain extent Mazeika.
Notably, in Bassitt’s first start with Mazeika, they were very clearly not on the same page. Mazeika took some ownership for that saying, “There might be three or four right pitches for him for that situation. Trying to figure out what he wants to do is always a unique challenge.” Indeed, Bassitt is an extraordinarily difficult pitcher to learn and get on the same page with on the fly.
Notably, Nido has struggled with framing the high strike this season, which puts Bassitt in a difficult spot. Also, he is not framing those inside pitches against left-handed batters well. This has Bassitt throwing more pitches and having to come in the zone more. With Bassitt having to throw his fastball/sinker more in the zone against left-handed batters it has become much more hittable.
Overall, there is nothing wrong with Bassitt per se, at least not health-wise. This is more trying to get back on the drawing board and work with Jeremy Hefner and his catchers on how to better attack left-handed batters. Once they get back on the same page, we should once against see the Bassitt we saw over the first month-and-a-half of the season and the pitcher the Mets were eager to acquire from the Oakland Athletics.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO.