The Mets have rostered one of the best starting pitchers of this generation, but for whatever reason, he can never stay healthy. The second-best pitcher in baseball for nearly the last decade (since 2014), according to both ERA and fWAR, once again, Jacob deGrom is on the injured list, following reports on Friday that he has been shut down for at least the next four weeks to deal with a stress reaction in his right shoulder. Originally, deGrom was expected to be the Mets Opening Day starter.
For the Mets, this is horrible news, as deGrom was supposed to help guide a loaded starting rotation this season that includes Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt. According to MLB.com just a few days ago, New York’s starting staff was ranked as the top group in all of baseball, and according to Depth Charts projections at FanGraphs, each Mets starter in the rotation was expected to accrue at least 2 WAR during the 2022 season, save for Walker. Talk about a deep group of arms. Even worse for New York, deGrom is expected to opt-out of his current contract following this coming season, making him potentially one of the most sought-after free agents in next year’s offseason. Meanwhile, of the eight seasons the team has been blessed to wield him as a weapon on the mound, deGrom has consistently remained healthy in roughly half of those seasons, highlighted by back-to-back NL Cy Young wins in both 2018 and 2019, a two-season stretch in which he combined to pitch to a 2.05 ERA / 2.32 FIP in 64 starts (421 IP) – good for a whopping 16 fWAR overall. The Mets have no doubt received some incredible performances from deGrom, but the team has failed to get over the hump ever since losing the World Series in 2015. Not consistently having deGrom probably has had something to do with it.
For the Braves (and the rest of NL East division), deGrom going down is an early Christmas present. Atlanta hitters have historically done some damage versus Scherzer, but deGrom has always seemed to have the upper hand. In fact, for his career, the 33-year-old righty has posted a 1.96 ERA in 25 starts versus the Braves, to go with 201 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings – the second-highest punchout total he has against a team over his incredible career, behind the Marlins. And last year it was more of the same for deGrom, who struck out 20 Braves batters in 12 innings in 2021, while sporting a 2.25 ERA in two starts. With deGrom now out of the picture until at least sometime in May, this time period could really help Atlanta, as the two teams will meet for the first time in the 2022 regular season on May 2, with a three-game series in New York. Given the four-week shutdown was followed with the phrase “then he’ll be reevaluated”, suggests it very well could be longer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would never celebrate a player getting injured. In fact, I hate that deGrom has been shut down. He’s incredible to watch, and when he’s on, he’s literally unhittable. But if the Braves have any hope of repeating this year, its going to need all the help it can get. And as a compliment to deGrom, him missing a month of the season will surely help. The Mets are supposed to be the team within the NL East division that gives the Braves the most trouble. Well, it’s going to be a bit more difficult to do that without its staff ace. I hope the Braves can take advantage of deGrom’s absence; however, I also hope he makes a timely return.