CHICAGO — All of the statistics come with an additional footnote to convey their impressiveness: And that is without Jacob deGrom.
The Mets’ rotation has a 2.55 ERA in July, third best in the majors entering play Friday, and a 3.79 ERA for the season, good for ninth. They have struck out nearly one out of every four batters they have faced — trailing only Milwaukee in the National League — and lead a staff that tops baseball with 13 shutouts, already nearly double their total from last year.
If you’re looking for what has gone right for the Mets, 56-34 and in first place in the NL East for all but one day this season, start with the starters: Max Scherzer, Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson. As much as the bullpen is an area of need in these final weeks before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, the rotation is not.
And that is without Jacob deGrom.
“Because everybody spends a lot of time, and rightfully so, talking about Max returning and Jake returning, they kind of forget the [other] guys,” manager Buck Showalter said this week. “Not forget, but there’s not that focus on them as much as could be. But they’ve been solid for a long time.”
DeGrom is close to a return, so much so that he could slot in during the first turn in the rotation after the All-Star break. If he continues to feel fine after making his third rehabilitation start on Thursday, four innings with four strikeouts for Triple-A Syracuse, he’ll pitch in a simulated game next week.
The Mets haven’t said exactly when deGrom will return. If he stays on an every-five-days schedule, he would line up for July 24 against the Padres. If they mix in another day or two of rest, he would be looking at the July 26-27 Subway Series at Citi Field against the Yankees. Given how careful he and the Mets have been since they learned of the stress reaction in his right shoulder blade near the end of spring training, the latter wouldn’t surprise.
For that matter, if they decide on an extra minor-league outing, pushing his return to a Miami/Washington road trip at the end of July and beginning of August, it wouldn’t be terribly shocking, either.
Don’t worry about those few additional days. The Mets’ rotation is doing well without him.
“A lot of people lose sight of that,” Showalter said. “We see a lot of good pitching. For us to be in these games, we have to pitch well too.”
After a couple of injury issues in April, Walker has been the Mets’ most reliable starter, posting a career-best 2.63 ERA in his contract year. Scherzer (2.15) has been his regular self before and after straining his left oblique. Bassitt leads the team with 102 innings pitched to go with his 3.79 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Carrasco also has been a reliable innings-eater with a 4.27 ERA in 99 innings in a majors-leading 18 starts. And Peterson — the No. 7 name on the depth chart to begin the year — has given the Mets everything they could have hoped for and more with a 3.48 ERA while bouncing between starter and reliever and the majors and minors.
Carrasco picked up his 10th win of the season (and 99th of his career) on Thursday. That isn’t as sexy a stat as it used to be, but he is on pace to trigger the vesting $14 million option on his contract for 2023.
That is pretty good for a guy who would be the Mets’ No. 5 starter when deGrom returns — because they’ve done all this without him, if you haven’t heard.
“I’m glad . . . that he’s kind of reminded people how good a pitcher he has been in the past and has been this year,” Showalter said. “You’ve heard me say this about [starter Nos.] 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. ‘He’s this good, this guy is better than that guy.’ They’re all our No. 1 starter on the night they pitch.”