Mets fans know about Jacob deGrom, with or without the hair. You sometimes wonder if everybody else does, especially the way the Mets have been losing the way they have after an 11-1 start that made the whole baseball world think that they had been hit, in an amazin' way,
Mets fans know about Jacob deGrom, with or without the hair. You sometimes wonder if everybody else does, especially the way the Mets have been losing the way they have after an 11-1 start that made the whole baseball world think that they had been hit, in an amazin' way, by lightning. After 11-1, and going into the year's first Subway Series, this one at Citi Field, the Mets went 16-31. It is as if the season suddenly decided to throw the Mets out of a speeding car.
Through it all, they still have deGrom. Sometimes it seems as if he is all the Mets have right now. Going into his start against the Yankees, he had 12 starts for the season, a 4-0 record, eight no-decisions and an ERA of 1.49. It is the best ERA in the National League. It isn't so far away from what Justin Verlander has with the Astros. Verlander is 1.24, but has seven wins to show for his own fine, dazzling work. deGrom has his four. In 10 starts for him this season when he has given up one or no earned runs, the Mets' record is 4-6. Premier League soccer teams score more than the Mets have scored for deGrom when he's out there, at least so far.
The question for deGrom, then, is this:
What is the level of frustration that goes with having so little to show for this level of excellence?
"I think it's frustrating no matter what, whether I'm pitching or not," deGrom said. "We don't want to lose and when we do lose games, it's frustrating for everybody, whether it's me or anybody else. Obviously that's not what we're trying to do."
Understand: deGrom isn't just good this season. He's as good as anybody, Verlander or Max Scherzer or anybody you want to throw into the conversation. Since deGrom came along in 2014, a season in which he ended up winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award, he has made 119 starts, with a career ERA of 2.83. Here are the guys with more than 100 starts in that same stretch and a better ERA than deGrom's:
deGrom briefly suffered from a May injury to his pitching elbow that occurred when he was batting. So he came out of a start against the Braves after four innings. When deGrom came back, there was a cold, wet, miserable night against the Phillies when he endured a difficult first inning and Mets manager Mickey Callaway pulled him. But other than that start, there was a stretch between April 27 and last Saturday night's start against the Cubs when he had seven starts in which he pitched a total of 40 1/3 innings, gave up a total of three earned runs. The Mets' record for those games was 2-5. It is as if when deGrom leaves the game the whole team leaves with him.
deGrom: "Nobody likes to lose, whether I give up runs or [relievers] give up runs. It's just part of it. Nobody's perfect. ... It's part of the game. It's unfortunate."
The Mets started out with that 11-1 record, but they go into the weekend closer to the Marlins in last place than they are to first place in the NL East. They have had that kind of fall over less than two months. Matt Harvey is gone, Yoenis Cespedes is hurt, Todd Frazier got hurt, Michael Conforto came to the season late. The bullpen lately has been all of this year's creepy horror movies combined.
Through it all, though, there is deGrom. We have heard so much for years about the Mets' young starting pitchers. But since 2014, deGrom's rookie year, while he has been making his 119 starts, Noah Syndergaard has made 72. Harvey made 68 before being exiled to the Reds. Zack Wheeler has made a total of 60. For now, and the cautionary tale attached to so many young pitchers and especially Mets' young pitchers, deGrom has been the biggest young pitching star the Mets have had since Dwight Gooden was young, before Gooden became a cautionary tale for all times.
deGrom: "These guys are going to battle."
He does. With runners in scoring position, batters are hitting .120 against deGrom. When the bases have been loaded, they are 2-for-12 and he has nine strikeouts. For the season, deGrom's 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings is only second to Scherzer.
But for these two months, deGrom has gotten a little taste of what it was like for Tom Seaver when he was young. Seaver won 16 as a rookie. The Mets won 61. Seaver won 16 in '68. The Mets won 73. Then came the miracle of '69. Right now the miracle for deGrom would feel like him leaving with a lead. And then somebody protecting that lead in the eighth and ninth. He's Verlander this season. He's Scherzer. Just with hardly anything to show for it. deGrom leaves these games, and mostly, the Mets leave with him.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.