NEW YORK -- A multitude of zeros were connected to Masahiro Tanaka well before he threw his first pitch in the employ of the Yankees. The six zeros in the value of his Yankees contract come to mind. The three other digits (155) are more compelling because of the zeros and commas that followed. And Tanaka's winning percentage last season was good for three more zeros, preceded by a period and a 1. More conspicuous and remarkable was the 0 to the right of the hyphen and the 24 in the record he produced last season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Tanaka brought those zeros and one more -- the number of losses he's suffered in his first seven big league starts -- to Citi Field on Wednesday night and added nine others, pitching a 4-0 shutout against the overmatched Mets. He caused quite the stir -- much ado about nothing, you might say -- by limiting the Mets to four hits and walking none -- another zero -- and striking out eight.
Alas, Tanaka also eliminated a zero when he singled in his fourth at-bat, in the ninth inning, and shined a bright light on another difficult-to-fathom zero -- the hit total of the Mets' pitchers through 39 games, 34 if their Interleague road games are discounted.
Even for a franchise that's had its share of struggles, this one is a doozy. Mets pitchers -- that includes nine able-bodied men -- have batted 64 times thus far and are without a base hit. And Tanaka singles in his seventh big league at-bat to add insult to haplessness.
The 64th instance occurred Wednesday night when starting pitcher Rafael Montero made his big league debut on the mound and also in the batter's box. A base hit by the rookie against Tanaka would have been a development worthy of the National Enquirer's cover:
Interleague shocker: Big Citi hurler snaps gargantuan 0-for
Moreover, had Montero achieved his first knock, it would have given the Mets' pitchers a batting average, such as it would have been -- .016. In some ways, though, the .000 that stood after Montero struck out in the third is preferable. All an .000 batting average indicates is that no hits have been achieved, but .016 says loudly no hits in lots of at-bats.
Which looks worst at first glance: Gil Hodges' .000 average in the 1952 World Series or Bobby Bonilla's .050 in the 1996 American League Championship Series? Common mathematical sense says Bonilla had at least 20 at-bats. He couldn't have had fewer with that average. But if you don't know Hodges was hitless in 21, well, you can't tell by his average. He could have gone 0-for-7. Additional research is necessary.
But it's worse than all that because Tanaka singled through the middle in the ninth against Jose Valverde. He did in his seventh at-bat what no Mets pitcher has done in 64. Mets pitchers will have to produce hits in their next 11 at-bats to push their collective average past Tanaka's current .143.
So here are the Mets, trying to make headway in 2014, and the ninth spot in their batting order is a black hole. Hitting is difficult. Batting .016 is more difficult. A topped roller can add points to a batting average. Ask John Franco, who surrendered more 15-foot hits than anyone this side of luckless Doug Sisk. A popup, a bloop, an excuse-me single -- each can eliminate the .000 monogram on the uniforms of the current Mets pitchers. But these Mets haven't had the touch or the luck.
Now, credit must be given when credit is due, so, in the interest of full disclosure, we present the raw data:
Bartolo Colon, 11
Dillon Gee, 14
Gonzalez Germen, 1
Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1
Jenrry Mejia, 16
Rafael Montero, 1
Jon Niese, 9
Carlos Torres, 1
Zack Wheeler, 10
Of course, none of this comes as a surprise. A Mets.com report dated Feb. 18, 2014, provided this perspective on the batting exploits of the pitchers:
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It's standard operating procedure for a team's starting rotation to wager on the individual batting achievements of its members. The Mets' starters of 2013 probably were one of 30 rotations to create some sort of competition tied to monetary reward. According to Jon Niese, the members would contribute to a pot, and whichever pitcher produced the most hits in a month would win and pocket home said pot.
Problem was no pitcher hit enough for anyone to care.
"I don't think there ever was a payoff," Dillon Gee said. "We lost interest pretty quick."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.