By: David Weiss
Last night, Jacob deGrom pitched what will probably be the final game of his 2018 campaign. In all likelihood, he will win his first Cy Young award. Simply put, deGrom was fantastic all season long and never had a bad start. To date, he leads the NL in ERA by 0.75 runs, which is other worldly. He is second in innings pitched and strikeouts. He is tied with Max Scherzer for the lead in WHIP. With a WAR of 9.6 according to baseball reference, deGrom couldn’t have been better.
There is one obvious blemish. His record is a mere 10-9. In games that deGrom started, the Mets are 14-18. One can’t help but to think the obvious. How good would the Mets have been had they actually scored runs for deGrom? To begin, look at the number of runs the Mets gave deGrom to work with throughout the season.
This graph is shocking. On 12 occasions the Mets gave deGrom no more than two runs to work with. In other words, deGrom needed to be brilliant to give the team a shot at winning or just to get a no-decision. Unfortunately, the Mets lost all of those games and deGrom’s record was 0-7 despite his 1.87 ERA. In the nine games when the Mets scored three runs for deGrom, the team won four and deGrom posted a record of 3-2. This means that all of deGrom’s 9 losses came when the Mets scored no more than three runs. When the Mets scored four of more runs, the team was 10-1 and deGrom posted a 7-0 record. So long as the team scored a decent number of runs, they’d win.
A further look at deGrom’s losses will show that in two games, he simply picked up the ‘L’ on account of bad defnese behind him. In a game against the Padres in July, deGrom gave up three runs in eight brilliant innings. However, one run was scored due to a Bautista error. In a late August game, he lost to the Giants when a Mesoraco passed ball caused a run to score. In both cases he would have ended the game with a no-decision if not for that run.
Like all hard-luck pitchers, deGrom had to deal with no shortage of bullpen losses. Between April 16 – May 28, deGrom had four games in which he gave the bullpen a lead. In those games, he pitched 281/3 innings and gave up just 4 runs while whiffing 38 unlucky batters. All of those games ended in bullpen losses. To make matters worse there were an additional 3 games later on in which he had left in a tie and the bullpen lost the game. In these games, deGrom pitched 25 innings giving up just 5 runs. In each start he had double digits in the ‘K’ column.
Now let’s look at it from the other perspective. How did the Mets do when deGrom pitched? The following table shows the teams record based on the number of runs (including unearned) that deGrom gave up in the games he started.
What we see here is tragically indicative of his season. When deGrom gave up no more than a single run, the Mets were 10-8. When he gave up two or more, the team was 4-10. He never gave up as many as five runs in a single start. If a genie had told you before the season that you’d have a pitcher who averages seven innings and gives anywhere from two to four runs, you’d assume the team will win most of those games. Not so for the 2018 Mets.
So now we get to the ‘what if’. What if the Mets actually would have scored runs for deGrom? The Mets averaged just 3.5 runs per game when deGrom started. In all games not started by deGrom, they scored 4.4 runs which is around the major league average. While 3.5 doesn’t seem terrible, it should be pointed out that in nearly two thirds of these games the Mets scored three or fewer runs. How much better could the 74-84 Mets have been if they had given him some normal run support? Here are two totally theoretical ways to look at this:
Method 1– Suppose the Mets would have had the same run output in each deGrom start. What would their record have been? This model assumes all runs are scored in 9 innings, so ties can happen.
Here we see that had the Mets scored exactly three runs in every deGrom start, the team would be around the .500 mark. Had they scored 4 runs they would have been in the playoff hunt. Had they scored 5 runs they would have been in virtual tie for the division, since many of the close losses were to Atlanta.
Method 2– Assume the Mets would have scored more runs in each deGrom start that the team lost. How many more wins would the Mets have had on the season? The chart below assume the Mets would have scored the same number of ‘additional runs’ in each start and allows for ties after 9 innings.
This shows that had the Mets scored just two runs on average in the starts deGrom lost, they’d have at least been over .500 on the season. Three runs more and they would be on the verge of clinching the division.
As Mets fans, we should be used to this. The team has a way of torturing the fans. Jacob deGrom should win the Cy Young award as he decimated opponents this season. The sad part is that the Mets had one of the greatest seasons ever from an elite pitcher in recent history, and kept losing when he pitched. The fact is that had they won more of deGrom’s games, they could have competed for a playoff spot.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)