October 7, 2022

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

For the first time since July 7, 2021, Jacob deGrom took the mound for the Mets in major league action. He looked just like the deGrom we saw last season, which was aesthetically pleasing.

After all, deGrom is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball when healthy. With his 2021 season ended early due to elbow issues and the injury he suffered in spring training was to his shoulder, seeing deGrom look like his old self wasn’t a given. He did it, though, even in a Mets loss. (We’ll get to that.)

In five innings of work, deGrom allowed just one run on three hits. He struck out six and walked none. He needed just 59 pitches to get through those five innings. His fastball averaged 99.7 mph, hitting 101.6. He took seven swings and misses out of 21 sliders he threw.

Like I said — except for the shortened pitch count — this was the same old Jacob deGrom.

Unfortunately for deGrom and his teammates, the rest of the game unfolded in somewhat familiar fashion as well. It was a 5-1 loss to a hapless Nationals team that had just traded away its two best offensive players, including a generational talent in Juan Soto. The Mets’ only run was a solo homer by Francisco Lindor. They only managed five hits. The bullpen coughed up four runs in two innings after deGrom was removed.

I couldn’t help but think about 2018 and 2019.

Remember those two seasons from deGrom? Remember how the Mets couldn’t win at a consistent clip despite how amazingly dominant he was? It was so remarkable it was laughable.

  • In 2018, deGrom had a 1.70 ERA. Aaron Nola of the Phillies was second in the NL with 2.37 while Max Scherzer sat at 2.53. No one else in the league came within striking distance of deGrom. The workload wasn’t light either, as deGrom’s 217 innings fell just short of Scherzer’s 220 2/3. And yet, the Mets went 14-18 in deGrom’s starts that year. They lost two games in which he went at least seven innings and allowed zero runs. Eighteen times he gave up either zero or one run and they lost eight of them.
  • In 2019, deGrom was not enough as good. He had a 2.43 ERA (169 ERA+) in 204 innings, striking out an NL-best 255. The Mets, again, coincidentally, went 14-18 in his starts. Seven times he went seven innings and didn’t allow a run and the Mets managed to lose twice. They lost twice when he gave up one run and six times when he allowed two.

Things improved on that front in 2020 and 2021 and we knew it was a freak coincidence ever since. No one should think that this is something that will continue. It is not a prognostic event.

The biggest takeaway for the Mets on Tuesday should be that deGrom looked great, and that gives them the best 1-2 punch in baseball along with Scherzer. They’re still in first place, too. It was a little too familiar to see the rest of the team perform so poorly for deGrom in his return.

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