Adam Dunn: “people would be batting .400” if batting averages weren’t reported

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MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince reported on the Blue Jays’ use of a “performance coach” who professes that “batting average is Satan”. Somehow, that isn’t the most interesting quote in the article. In talking about how fans and players have moved further and further away from their reliance on batting average, Adam Dunn’s name inevitably came up. The White Sox slugger is hitting a cool .108 on the season and has hit a combined .184 over 2011-12, but contends that some of that is due to the pressure placed upon him when his batting average is reported in the media and flashed on scoreboards.

“I’m telling you,” said Adam Dunn, whose batting average has dropped in recent seasons, “if people didn’t post people’s batting averages on the scoreboard or in the media, people would be batting .400. I’m serious. I believe that. You look at Spring Training, and I know it’s a small sample, but you’ve got guys hitting .500 in 50-60 at-bats. They know they’re hitting good, but they don’t know what they’re hitting.”

Dunn has never even hit .270 in his career, let alone .400, but I think even he would agree that his batting average wouldn’t come close to .400 if the stat became invisible. The more spurious thought is that someone like Tony Gwynn, a career .338 hitter who flirted with .400 in 1994, was one national media habit away from history.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.