The Mets figured that they would live and die by their starting rotation this season, and while Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz have exceeded expectations, the two theoretical bedrocks, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, looked awful at times. Both seem to be settling in now, though, and deGrom continued to look good in his start on Tuesday.
deGrom missed a start in April thanks to some right lat trouble, and his performance upon his return wasn't great. In a six-start stretch from April 24 through May 21, he only struck out 16% of the hitters he faced and walked 7%. His velocity was down on all pitches, particularly early in the season, compared to last year. This was not the Jacob deGrom Mets fans were used to seeing.
Since then, however, deGrom is looking like his old self again. He has struck out 35 and walked six in his last four starts, and his velocity is steadily climbing back up. He’s getting guys to bite on his curve and changeup, as whiff percentages on both pitches have spiked in the last few weeks.
For the season, deGrom's 2.82 ERA ranks 17th in baseball among qualified starting pitchers, and his 2.97 FIP ranks 13th. And his 3.49 Deserved Run Average—a Baseball Prospectus stat that properly weights hits and takes the effects of park, defense, quality of opposition, pitch framing, and control of the running game into account—makes him a top-30 starter in all of baseball for the first time all season. Mets fans can collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
The funny thing is that there was probably no huge reason to worry about deGrom. Overall, his average exit velocity and launch angle on batted balls is exactly the same as last year—better than average in both categories. deGrom was always likely to come around after his injury. The rebounding velocity seems to confirm this.
His vertical release point nails the point home. deGrom was releasing the ball about 1-2 inches lower on all pitches in April and May than he was at the end of last season. He’s bringing it back up to 2015 levels in the last four starts. It’s not crazy to think that a nagging lat muscle—which gets a lot of work in a pitcher’s delivery—would affect how and where deGrom throws the ball. Thankfully, that appears to be behind him.
deGrom still needs to work on command. He worked seven three-ball counts against the Pirates on Tuesday. He has yet to throw more than seven innings this season, and he’s averaging almost 16 pitches per inning. That said, if his velocity and release points keep creeping up and his batted ball stats remain steady, he will be fine. All signs point to the return of the Jacob deGrom we all know and love.