New York Mets: Jacob deGrom doesn’t have it going on in 2019
By Leen Amin
Reigning National League Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom has been roughed up in two straight starts. Who stole our ace and what have they done with him?
New York Mets ace and 2018 All-Star NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom was the best pitcher in baseball last year. He put up historic numbers and pitched like many had never seen before. Mets fans entered the 2019 season hoping to get something even slightly similar to what they got from him in 2018 (but with more wins this time).
After his second start of this season, it appeared as though we were getting an encore of his 2018 performance. He had allowed three runs or fewer in an MLB-record 31 straight starts and tied Bob Gibson’s MLB record of 26 consecutive quality starts.
The entire baseball world was excited to see how much longer he would be able to keep this up for. However, everything went haywire for Jake on April 9th against the Minnesota Twins in his 2019 Citi Field debut. They snapped his record-tying 26 consecutive quality starts and his 27 innings scoring streak, as he would go on to allow six runs over four innings.
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This was an unusually ugly outing for deGrom and one that everyone expected him to shake off and move on from immediately.
His next start was on April 14 against the Atlanta Braves. While he was definitely better and struck out an impressive nine batters, it was still a laborious effort that was not vintage deGrom.
He allowed three runs and four walks, falling behind most hitters he faced mainly because he seemed incapable of throwing first-pitch strikes. This start was not horrible, especially compared to his performance against the Twins, but was not great, considering the fact that he had allowed three runs in only one of his previous 17 starts against the Braves.
So, what’s going on with baseball’s best pitcher?
To begin with, his command has not been what it usually is. Additionally, after allowing a grand total of 10 home runs in 2018, he has already allowed five home runs in 2019. To put this in perspective: in his last 7.1 innings pitched, he has allowed five home runs. He allowed five home runs in his previous 134.2 innings pitched.
Something that seems to be problematic is his new power slider. Its velocity is too close to that of his fastball, so hitters are expecting all of his pitches to be coming at them at velocities in the low-to-high 90s. Hitters are also chasing his pitches outside of the zone much less: his chase rate is down to 25.4% this season (which is also a career low) from 35.4% in 2018.
He is also allowing a career-high allowed launch angle at 16%. The highest it had ever been was 10.6%. Lastly, his ground ball rate is down from a career rate of 47.3% to 30.6%.
Look, it would be irrational for any of us to expect to see deGrom put up the same numbers that he did in 2018. However, he is a great pitcher and needs to work on a few things in order to at least get back on track.
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His power slider definitely has to go, and he has to work on his command. deGrom should not be bad in any sense this season, but fans should come back down to earth and prepare to see their ace make human mistakes.