Jacob deGrom was brilliant in return, but the Mets still lost.

Smell it

For the first time since July 7, 2021, Jacob deGrom took the mound for the Mets in big league action. He looked exactly like what we saw last season, really, which was aesthetically pleasing.

After all, deGrom is still the best pitcher in baseball when he’s healthy. Given that his 2021 season ended prematurely due to elbow problems and the shoulder injury he suffered in spring training, seeing deGrom look like his old self is more than anyone could expect. No such conclusion was drawn. He did, though, in a loss to the Mets. (We’ll get to that.)

In five innings of work, deGrom allowed just one run on three hits. He hit a six and didn’t run anyone. They needed just 59 pitches to get through those five innings. His fastball averaged 99.7 mph, topping out at 101.6. Of the 21 sliders he threw, he got seven swings.

Like I said – other than the short pitch count – it was the same old Jacob deGrom.

Unfortunately for deGrom and his teammates, the rest of the game unfolded in somewhat familiar fashion. It was a 5-1 loss to an underdog national team that just traded two of its best offensive players, including a generational talent in Juan Soto. Francisco Lindor’s solo homer was the Mets’ only run. He managed just five hits. After deGrom was removed, the bullpen scored four runs in two innings.

I couldn’t help but think about 2018 and 2019.

Remember those two seasons of deGrom? Remember how the Mets couldn’t win at a consistent clip despite being surprisingly dominant? It was so remarkable it was laughable.

  • In 2018, deGrom had a 1.70 ERA. Aaron Nola of the Phillies finished second in the NL at 2.37 while Max Scherzer sat at 2.53. No one else in the league was in the running for deGrom. It was no small workload either, as deGrom’s 217 innings was trailed only by Scherzer’s 220 2/3. And yet, the Mets went 14-18 in deGrom’s starts that year. He lost two games in which he pitched at least seven innings and allowed zero runs. Eighteen times he gave up zero or one run and he lost eight of them.
  • In 2019, deGrom was not. enough As good as he was, he had a 2.43 ERA (169 ERA+), striking out an NL-best 255 in 204 innings. Seven times he went seven innings and didn’t allow a run, and the Mets still managed to lose twice. They lost twice when he gave up one run and six times when he allowed two.

Things improved on that front in 2020 and 2021 and we knew it was a strange coincidence. One should not believe that this is something that will continue. This is not a predictable event.

The biggest takeaway for the Mets on Tuesday should be that deGrom looked great and that gives them the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Scherzer. They are still number one. It was a little too familiar to see the rest of the team perform so poorly for DeGrom in his return.