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Batters be aware, the year of the pitcher is upon us

The Red Sox's patience at the plate with Bobby Dalbec has been justified this season because the pitching has been so dominant across the board.
The Red Sox's patience at the plate with Bobby Dalbec has been justified this season because the pitching has been so dominant across the board.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

BALTIMORE — The faith Red Sox manager Alex Cora has shown this season in Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec can be hard to understand.

Cordero’s halting swing resembles somebody trying to swat a mouse with a broom. Dalbec looks better at the plate and makes decent contact but is rarely rewarded.

Both have already endured painfully long hitless streaks.

But their continued presence in the lineup started to make more sense on Friday night, and not just because Dalbec was 2 for 3 with a three-run homer in a 6-2 victory against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

It was what happened in Cleveland that brought it into focus.


Wade Miley, a journeyman lefty of no particular distinction, no-hit the Indians. It was the fourth no-hitter already this season if you count the seven-inning game Madison Bumgarner threw in a doubleheader, which you should.

Does that mean there will be a dozen no-hitters this season? Probably not. But don’t bet against it.

Through Friday, major league hitters had a .233 batting average with a .701 OPS and were striking out 24.2 percent of the time.

This season’s on-base percentage of .310 is the lowest since 1968, the year of the pitcher. The rash of no-hitters and plunging statistics aren’t a fluke. This is how the game is being played.

“I hate to say this is what it is. But it looks that way,” Cora said before Saturday’s 11-6 victory. “I don’t think it’s like the last few years when guys were hitting .210 and hitting 40 [home runs]. I don’t see that happening, either.”

Consider the plight of the hitter. The opposing team has a room full of analysts breaking down data to determine how best to pitch you. If you do make contact, the defense is shifted to where you are most likely to hit the ball.


Getting the ball in the air was once a solution. But now MLB has deadened the ball to create more action on the field.

There was a time not too long ago when fans would cheer when the scoreboard radar gun registered 100 miles-per-hour for a pitch. Now it’s commonplace.

In short, it is becoming impossible for all but the best players to hit for average and power.

“Absolutely,” said Dalbec, who had a two-run single Saturday. “It’s so hard. Everyone throws 100. If they don’t throw 100, they have an outlier arm angle that makes it tougher … pitchers are nasty right now.”

Cora has noticed some hitters adjusting to shifts by going the other way. He believes that trend needs to continue to force teams out of shifts and make pitchers change how they attack hitters.

“Let’s see how the industry adjusts to this,” Cora said.

Meanwhile, it’s probably time for all of us to adjust our expectations and understand that hitters like Cordero and Dalbec are getting regular playing time throughout the game.

Cora has already done that, not that he has much of a choice.

“A great hitter now is what —.270, .275? It seems like it, right? That’s way above average. I know the expectations of our guys is not to hit .270. They want to be great,” he said.

Some have been. Through Friday, the Red Sox led the majors in runs, batting average, OPS and doubles despite getting little from the bottom of the order.


Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Alex Verdugo allow the Sox to be patient with Cordero and Dalbec.

“The bar is lower as far as the hitters. You just have to live with what’s going on and be realistic,” Cora said.

Dalbec’s single in the third inning Friday snapped an 0-for-27 streak. That took some pressure off his shoulders and helped lead to the game-changing home run in the fourth inning. He followed that up with a big two-out hit Saturday.

Dalbec contacted some of his former hitting coaches for advice and had a long talk with Cordero in Texas last weekend to commiserate about their shared struggles.

He also got some counsel from Dustin Pedroia, who had a three-week slump in his rookie season before breaking out.

Pedroia told Dalbec to stay true to his process and that it’s never as bad or as good as it seems.

“The whole ride the wave thing. Be the same guy,” Dalbec said. “He’s awesome. He’s awesome.”

Pedroia is no doubt an excellent resource for a young player. But he fought through that slump in 2007, a season that saw the average hitter hit .268 with a .758 OPS. Most teams this year have only two players hitting those marks.

Dalbec is playing in a different game.

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.