On July 7th, 2021, the course of the New York Mets season was altered. Despite a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in game 82 of the season, this day would go down as the one where the big picture for 2021 completely changed.
All because that game may have been the final start by Jacob deGrom this year. The then-Cy Young frontrunner hurled seven innings of two-run ball, striking out 10 in the process.
Over a week later, the Mets placed deGrom on the 10-day injured list, before he was eventually moved to the 60-day injured list.
Battling numerous ailments all season, deGrom still managed to put up the greatest numbers of his career so far. Destined for another Cy Young, the loss of deGrom not only put an end to that discussion. But it may have been the final hit that caused the Mets current spiral.
Mets could never replicate Jacob deGrom’s greatness
On the mound, there is no better player in all of baseball than Jacob deGrom. The 33-year-old had a 1.08 earned run average through 15 starts, with 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings. And even if the Mets knew he would be out for an extended period, there is no way to have replaced him.
In the off-season, the Mets added depth to their starting rotation knowing its recent injury issues. The team retained Marcus Stroman, signed Taijuan Walker, traded for Carlos Carrasco, as well as inning eaters in Jerad Eickhoff, Jordan Yamamoto, and Sean Reid-Foley.
Nevertheless, the Mets pitching fell apart. David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi fell to the injury list early. Carrasco never made his debut until the second half, and Noah Syndergaard has remained out and now finds himself preparing for a bullpen role in September.
In other words, the Mets needed deGrom more than anybody, because of the instability of their starting pitcher. And without him, not only does the rotation crumble, but the entire team’s mentality.
New mindset every fifth day
In 2021, the Amazins’ starters have the seventh-best earned run average from their starters at 3.69 (entering August 26th). Considering they have had 18 different pitchers start a game – that’s impressive.
At the same time, the Mets offense has scored the second-fewest runs, recorded the second-fewest hits, and is bottom five in home runs. As a team, New York is averaging an abysmal 3.74 runs per game.
With such horrid production from their offense, winning games has come by way of pitching, not hitting. Moreover, even with the Mets great pitching in 2021, the mentality entering a deGrom start vs a Robert Stock start is significantly different.
In his 15 starts this year, the Mets went 11-4, in large part because deGrom had eight starts without giving up an earned run. In those eight starts, the Mets offense did just enough every game to credit deGrom with a win six times.
To have a pitcher who can jog out every five days and pitch a team to a win is one of the greatest things that can happen to a team. Anytime they slump, the Mets know at some point over the next week their ace can throw them back on track.
With no deGrom return in sight, even the optimistic fans are losing hope. For all they know, should deGrom have been healthy, this team may still be in first place in the National League East. Nevertheless, that is a mere dream, as it has been nearly two months of not seeing number 48 on the mound.
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The New York Mets have a 16-28 record since deGrom last stood on the mound. At the time, he was running away with the Cy Young and in the MVP race, was the Mets most consistent player, and the soul of this team. And without him, there has simply been no heart, thus leading to the summer spiral of 2021.