MLB attendance among biggest surprises of 2022 season

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If there is one game that defines the start to the 2022 MLB season, it is the combined no-hitter five Mets pitchers threw against the Phillies on Friday. Twenty-nine-man rosters and 16-man pitching staffs gave us compromised baseball in April.

In that game, 33 of the 64 batters did not put the ball in play. Time of game was 3:18, which means a ball was put in play once every six minutes, 23 seconds against seven pitchers. The average fastball velocity in the game was 94.7 mph, but the spin was so nasty that hitters went 1-for-22 with 15 strikeouts against breaking pitches.

You could see this kind of baseball coming with expanded rosters after a spring training shortened by the lockout. Rosters will be dialed back Tuesday to 26, but MLB and the players association postponed until May 30 the intended limit of 13 pitchers. It will be set at 14 until then, so the edge remains with the seemingly inexhaustible supply of pitching.

As hitters and T.S. Eliot can agree, April was the cruelest month. Here are some of the biggest surprises of an odd month of baseball.

Lack of Offense: Only five other Aprils saw a worse batting (.231) and they were all ages ago: the Deadball years of 1907, ‘09 and ‘10, ’43 and ’68. Batting average on balls in play (.282) was the lowest in any April in 30 years. The average game had more pitchers (9.3) than runs (8.1).

The Baseball: This falls under a category in which people were surprised, but they should not have been. The less lively baseball is 100% in use this year, rather than being mixed with the older baseballs with less drag last season because of supply issues. The result? Fewer fly balls are going out of the park:

April Fly Balls

Fly BallsHRPct.

2021

4,673

767

16.4%

2022

4,026

514

12.8%

• Taylor Ward: On a team with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the 28-year-old outfielder was not only the best hitter on the Angels but also the best slugger in MLB (.784). Not bad for a guy drafted as a defensive catcher that one publication said “lacks a natural feel for hitting.”

• The Twins’ Rotation: They posted the fifth best ERA of any starting staff in baseball. Joe Ryan has a highly inefficient four-seamer (.103 batting average against), Bailey Ober has an odd, effective attack angle and Dylan Bundy is throwing fewer of his 89 mph fastballs. One warning sign that this might not last: the staff ranks 19th in strikeout rate.

• The Pirates’ Rotation: They did not post a win in the first 21 games, the first team to do so since the infamous 1988 Orioles. Even so, Washington and Cincinnati posted even worse ERAs than Pittsburgh’s 6.17.

• Eric Hosmer: With the help of Michael Brdar, 28, a hitting coach who is younger than him, Hosmer, 32, led MLB in hitting at .389 after lowering his hands and shortening his load by not pulling his hands behind his body.

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• Anthony Rizzo: He led the majors with nine home runs. Seven of them were hit at home, and four of them traveled less than 380 feet. With overshifts and the short porch, Rizzo has leaned into being a true power monster. His 50% pull rate is a career high.

• The Red Sox and White Sox can’t hit. They ranked 29th and 30th in OBP. Last year they ranked 7 and 3.

• The Homerless Club: Austin Meadows, Whit Merrifield, Wil Myers, Marcus Semien, Dominic Smith, Trevor Story, Joey Votto and Jesse Winker were just a few of a crowded club.

• The Tigers’ Offense: Like the Red Sox and White Sox, the Tigers have dealt with some poor weather conditions. Not much was going on in April in Detroit other than Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th hit. In 20 games, the Tigers hit .229 with eight home runs, stole two bases and had no sacrifice hits.

Kevin Gausman: Over a span of four starts in which he faced 95 batters, he did not allow a walk or home run while striking out 31.

The Near extinction of the complete game. Walker Buehler of the Dodgers threw the only CG. Excepting the strike year of 1995, when only 66 games were played in April, it marked a record low for April. The old mark was five in 2015 and ’19.

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Young Arms: Pablo López, 26, of Miami; Logan Gilbert, 25, of Seattle, Kyle Wright, 26, of Atlanta and Ryan, 26, of Minnesota posted the lowest qualified ERAs, while Patrick Sandoval, 25, of the Angels threw the most innings without allowing a run (15).

Older Hitters: The top six hitters as ranked by OPS were Mike Trout, 30, José Ramírez, 29, Nolan Arenado, 31, Manny Machado, 29, Rizzo, 32, and Hosmer, 32. Machado was one of only three players with four homers and four steals. The others were Ohtani and Jazz Chisholm.

The Trevor Bauer Decision: Commissioner Rob Manfred handed him a record two-year suspension for violating the joint domestic violence policy, knowing that Bauer would file the first-ever grievance of such discipline. The policy, crafted by both MLB and the players union, gives the commissioner the right to discipline under “just cause” determination even when no conviction or guilty plea exists.

The Dodgers’ Pitching Staff: Los Angeles allowed a .093 WHIP in April, the lowest in April ever for any team that played more than seven games. Clayton Kershaw, 34, posted a 0.696 WHIP over four April starts, the best mark in the National League.

Attendance: Even with cold weather, school in session and ticket presales that were depressed by the lockout, games averaged 25,899 fans, more than any full season through 1988. The Dodgers and Cardinals lead the way in per-game attendance, but the Padres are averaging a franchise record 38,310.

More MLB Coverage:
• There’s No Grand Conspiracy Behind the Mets’ Getting Hit by Pitches
• Six Chaotic Blunders Lead to a Bonkers Twins Walk-Off Win
• The King of Spin: Yu Darvish Epitomizes Pitching in 2022
• The Infield Shift Is Going Out With a Bang

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