New York Mets fans haven’t had an opportunity to watch Jacob deGrom dominate an MLB game in more than 12 months. His 2021 season was cut short because of forearm and elbow injuries, and his 2022 season has been delayed because of a stress reaction in his scapula.
But now, he’s on a rehab assignment that began with two starts in Single-A. It will continue onward with hopes he’ll rejoin the Mets’ rotation shortly after the All-Star break. When the two-time Cy Young Award winner officially makes his way back, what kind of impact will he have on the Amazins?
Jacob deGrom joins a rotation that hasn’t yet been at full strength in 2022
As Mets players arrived in Port St. Lucie for spring training in February, manager Buck Showalter likely had the following five hurlers in mind for his Opening Day rotation:
- Jacob deGrom
- Max Scherzer
- Taijuan Walker
- Carlos Carrasco
- Chris Bassitt
As the MLB regular season approaches the All-Star break, New York has yet to see all five of these pitchers healthy and on the active roster at the same time. In fact, four of them (deGrom, Scherzer, Walker, Bassitt) have spent time on the injured list at some point over the past three and a half months. The absences that have been the longest? That’d be both deGrom and Scherzer, who were initially expected to be the pillars of this rotation.
Despite missing more than a month because of an oblique strain, Scherzer has still made his presence felt in Queens by posting a 2.15 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched.
The Mets have managed to remain a first-place team and post a .621 winning percentage without getting a single pitch from deGrom. It’ll be interesting to see what this rotation can accomplish at full strength for the first time all year, nearly four months later than anyone in the organization originally expected.
The ace will take pressure off other parts of the New York Mets’ roster
DeGrom’s next rehab appearance comes with the goal of extending him into the fourth inning, as per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. Even if he builds up enough arm strength to pitch deep into games once he’s back, there’s every reason to believe Showalter will be as cautious as possible. Still, deGrom’s mere presence on the mound every five days takes the pressure off two parts of the Mets’ roster: the bullpen and the offense.
As trade rumor season begins heating up, it’s likely the Mets will be scouring the market for some bullpen support. With a rotation that hasn’t been at full strength, the relief corps has had to pick up some of the slack along the way. The cumulative performance of New York’s bullpen has been decent, but it got progressively worse between April and June:
- April: 3.46 ERA in 78 IP
- May: 3.54 ERA in 104.1 IP
- June: 4.13 ERA in 85 IP
The results have been much better so far in July (2.17 ERA in 37.1 IP), but that shouldn’t cloud the organization’s thinking. More help is needed in Queens.
As for the offense, it’s been sputtering at times after a hot start. Here are the team’s Weighted Runs Created Plus numbers each month:
- April: 113 wRC+
- May: 121 wRC+
- June: 96 wRC+
- July (so far): 114 wRC+
Getting runs on the board has been a little more difficult recently, as well. The Mets have been shut out five times this season, with three of those occasions coming since June 29.
How does deGrom help both areas of the roster? The right-hander has started 91 games since 2018. He’s averaged just over six innings per start. Even if it’s only five or six frames, penciling that in every five days immediately makes it easier for Showalter to manage his bullpen and keep some relief arms fresh.
During that same span of time, deGrom’s 1.94 ERA leads all qualified starters. Being an expert at preventing others from scoring makes it easier for the offense to put up enough runs to win, even when the lineup isn’t firing on all cylinders.
The Mets’ front office can focus on addressing other needs
As you can guess from what was just said above, MLB insiders are citing two major areas of need for the Mets before the trade deadline: bullpen help and another bat for the lineup (h/t Pat Ragazzo of SI.com). If deGrom is healthy with the rest of New York’s starting hurlers, it allows general manager Billy Eppler to focus most of the team’s resources on those specific areas.
Trevor May should be back in the Mets’ bullpen soon, which will help. However, one area that seems to be an issue is the lack of another left-handed reliever to pair with Joely Rodriguez. This also comes after New York designated for assignment and released southpaw Chasen Shreve.
On offense, the focus will be to upgrade the collective performance at designated hitter, which has been subpar throughout 2022. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes that New York could use another power bat to complement Pete Alonso. Although the Mets are among the top half of the league in team slugging percentage, their 86 home runs rank 19th as of July 12.
Mets owner Steve Cohen hasn’t shied away from spending money to improve his team, but New York will also have to part with players to address certain midseason needs. That’s more of a limited resource for them. So, not having to find a pitcher to immediately insert into the rotation makes it easier to improve other issues for a playoff push.
Having Jacob deGrom back gives the Mets and the fan base a confidence boost
A 162-game MLB regular season is six months long. There are bound to be ups and downs for every team. Mets fans have been burned plenty of times in the past, though, including recently. New York spent nearly three full months in first place during the 2021 campaign, but a second-half tailspin led to a 77-85 finish.
Even with the current squad sporting a 54-33 record, there’s some collective worry cropping up on Mets Twitter. On May 31, New York was sitting pretty with a 10.5-game lead in the National League East. With a performance hanging around .500 since the start of June and the Atlanta Braves going on a 14-game winning streak, that lead has shrunk to just 2.5 games as of July 12.
Sure, deGrom only pitches once every fifth day, so his on-field impact can only go so far. But even without him appearing in a big-league game over the past calendar year, his 23.5 fWAR since 2018 is still the best in baseball among qualified pitchers. Adding MLB’s best pitcher to a first-place team with playoff aspirations has the potential to do wonders for the confidence level of both the club and the fans.
The next few months will be a battle for the division. It’ll be a little easier for everyone to deal with the ensuing ups and downs with the team’s top players – like Jacob deGrom — healthy and on the field consistently.
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.