Conservatively speaking, let’s say the Mets managed to win a few more of Jacob deGrom’s 32 starts this season. Nothing crazy. So instead of the 14 victories they actually scraped together -- yes, that’s a 44 percent success rate -- maybe bump it closer to 60 percent.
Doing the math, that would have meant another five wins for the Mets, and we’d be having a much different conversation right now. Rather than talking about their official elimination after Wednesday’s 10-3 rout of the Marlins -- on a night deGrom basically clinched another Cy Young -- everyone would be looking ahead to his next start, in Tuesday’s wild-card game.
“We’ve got a guy that’s going to win the Cy Young in back-to-back years,” Michael Conforto said. “And we haven’t taken him to the playoffs.”
There’s no sugar-coating it. The Mets are incredibly lucky to possess a transcendent ace that not only is the best pitcher in the National League, but probably in the majors, with a Cooperstown discussion likely in a few more years.
But we’re not here to debate his Hall of Fame chances just yet. And same goes for the Cy Young. In our view, that race has been over for about two weeks, and all deGrom had to do was the usual deGrom thing in Wednesday’s final start of the season to nail it down.
He did, of course, allowing just two hits with seven Ks over seven scoreless innings to finish with a 2.43 ERA. And -- wait for it -- an 11-8 record. The Mets also won their fourth straight deGrom start for the first time in two years, a total of 64 starts overall.
That brings us to the nagging issue in this bizarre deGrom-Mets relationship: their stunning inability to capitalize on his Cy-quality performances, a factor that helped lead to Wednesday’s elimination (thanks to the Brewers’ rout of the Reds).
“I’m happy with how I ended my season, but not happy where we’re at,” said deGrom, who wrapped up on a 23-inning scoreless streak. “The goal is to win a World Series and we fell short of that goal. It’s a tough pill to swallow but I think we proved that we can win baseball games. We just have to put it together for a full season.”
If only the Mets could make a habit of showing up for deGrom like they did in his final start. The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, and Pete Alonso’s three-run homer in the second -- No. 51 for the Polar Bear -- contributed to a 9-0 cushion by the third inning.
DeGrom must have thought he was dreaming. This season, the Mets had supplied 3.97 runs in his starts, the fifth-worst run support in the majors. Overall, the team averaged 4.87 runs, slightly above the league mark of 4.85, so you can see how much the Mets really short-changed their ace. Not that it fazed deGrom, who had a 1.89 ERA in 23 starts since May 22.
“He’s big-time Jake,” Alonso said. “When stuff is on the line, whether individually or for the team, he steps up.”
Going forward, the Mets can only hope the rest of the roster does, preferably for Opening Day of next season. Consistently flushing Jake’s gems is not a formula for sustained success.
Since 2018, deGrom has a 2.05 ERA and 0.948 WHIP in his 64 starts, but the Mets are an inexcusable eight games under .500 (28-36) when he’s on the mound. That counts as criminally negligent behavior by the Mets as deGrom makes his freshly-minted $138-million contract look like the best bargain in the sport.
DeGrom always says the right thing. But you have to wonder if he’s thinking what everyone else is, that the Mets need to start performing closer to his level. Having a back-to-back Cy Young winner is huge source of pride for the franchise, but the mission is to compete for a championship. While it’s true deGrom has completely devalued the Pitcher Win, the all-important W still matters in the standings, and the Mets aren’t collecting anywhere near enough of them on his turns.
“I think it’s something that can put you over the top,” Callaway said. “You’ve got to win your horse’s games.
We can blame the bullpen troubles for sabotaging this season, and Callaway’s lack of second-year progress on the managerial learning curve. Both contributed to the Mets’ playoff chances ultimately dissolving.
But so did routinely coming up short for deGrom. He deserves better, and that feels ridiculous to say about a pitcher poised to claim his second straight Cy Young Award.