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NY Mets: Pair of pitchers struggling since the “sticky stuff” crackdown

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets is inspected by umpires for sticky substances during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on June 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets is inspected by umpires for sticky substances during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on June 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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With the crackdown of “sticky stuff” in the MLB, it’s safe to say that the New York Mets wouldn’t be exempt from this. Now before you yell at me because you think I’m going to mention Jacob deGrom looking human lately, you’d be wrong. The two-time Cy Young winner has looked as dominant as ever, albeit, not as Superman-esque. Instead, the focus is on Marcus Stroman and Miguel Castro.

The problem with sticky stuff is that it allegedly adds a ton more spin on a pitch because the pitcher can grip the ball longer and tighter. Many of the pitchers accused of using it have seen their spin rates drop by 200 or more spins and their location hasn’t been as pinpoint.

*I would like to preface this article by saying this isn’t me accusing these pitchers of using sticky stuff. However, their dip in numbers coincides with the June 21st enforcement of the rule. Take that information as you wish* 

Mets pitcher Miguel Castro has been a different pitcher of late

Let’s start with Castro, who gave up a two-run bomb to the Brewers and again lacked any sort of control or command on the mound as he hit a batter as well. After a stellar April that saw him end the month with a 2.00 ERA, after today, it’s ballooned to a 4.01.

He was Luis Rojas’ secret weapon out of the bullpen and now he’s probably worked his way out of the “top guys” rotation.

Dating back to June 19th, just two days before the enforcement was coming, Castro started losing control. In 5 1/3 innings over seven games, he’s walked eight batters and hit two. He’s given up three home runs and only struck out three.

Some of his pitches haven’t even been close and much of his dominant strikeout ability is gone.

Talking this over with a group of Rising Apple writers, a few think his early workload is what’s doing him in. Another thought, he never was the pitcher he appeared to be and just had a streak. Well, what do the numbers say?

According to Baseball Savant, much like Castro’s pitches, the numbers are all over the place. Since April, his slider has been in the 2,900+ range. That is a constant. His sinker was down, then up, and over the last month dropped 100 spins in June and another 100 in July. That’s something to look out for.

However, it’s his changeup that stands out the most. In April and May, it was over 2,000 spins. In June and July, it’s at 1,700. This is a huge drop-off. Perhaps this is why he hasn’t been as effective – you have to admit the timing is suspect.

Let’s keep an eye on Castro and hope he can return to the form he had early on in the season. He may just need some rest…we hope.

Marcus Stroman hasn’t been the same gem

Marcus Stroman is a workhorse and an imposing force on the mound. He makes up for his height with his charisma and unpredictability through arm slots and deliveries. However, his last few starts, dating back to that June 21st enforcement, have been coincidentally not great.

Stroman in one start was dealing with a hip impingement and the next start with the loss of his grandmother. His slipping a bit is totally understandable but for argument’s sake, let’s look at the numbers.

Over Stroman’s last three starts, he’s only gone nine innings. In that time, he’s walked six, given up 11 runs, hit a batter, and has given up nine runs – five earned. His swinging strikes are down and he’s thrown a lot of balls compared to strikes. He also struck out no batters in his last start.

Let’s look a bit further on Baseball Savant. His dominant pitch, the sinker was around 2,300+ spins in April and May. It’s dropped down 150 spins in both June and July. In April his slider was at 2,750 at its highest. In July that number is down to 2,537. That is over 200 less! His cutter and fastball are down over 200 spins as well.

So again, without accusing Stroman of using “sticky stuff” of some type, whether his body isn’t right, his heart is in another place, or something else, the numbers don’t lie and that is why his last few starts could have been uneven.

What do the Mets do?

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There is nothing the Mets can do but ensure their pitchers are doing the right thing and taking the guidelines seriously. The pitching staff has been mostly brilliant all year and now finally the offense seems to be coming around. Let’s hope important pieces such as Stroman and Castro rebound nicely and help steer the staff toward the pennant.

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