The Mets’ pitching staff couldn’t possibly be awful for the entire season, and over the past week, they’ve finally given some hope that they have turned things around. Jacob deGrom topped off a string of great performances with perhaps the best one yet, a complete game against the Cubs in which he allowed just one run last night.
At first glance, his line in the box score doesn’t jump off the page, as he struck out six, walked three unintentionally, and gave up five hits. But he induced several ground ball double plays and didn’t even really allow many loud outs.
In terms of stuff, deGrom’s velocity was right in line with what he normally throws. But nearly his entire repertoire generated swings and misses, with his changeup—which he threw nineteen times—leading the way with a 21.1 percent whiff rate, according to Brooks Baseball. His slider followed at 16.2 percent, and then his four-seam fastball came in at 13.9 percent and his curveball at 11.8. Even though his strikeout total wasn’t as high as it had been in some of his previous starts this year, those swinging strikes were undoubtedly beneficial to deGrom over the course of the game.
As for pitch usage, deGrom mixed it up a bit, throwing 14.66 percent curveballs, one of just four time in 2017 that he’s thrown that pitch more than ten percent of the time. And he threw just four-seam fastball just 31 percent of the time, one of the rare outings in which he hasn’t throwing it 40 percent or more. Some of those sacrificed fastballs went into the curveball column, but he threw his changeup 16 percent of the time last night, too, which is much heavier usage than normal. deGrom rarely throws that pitch even ten percent of the time, never mind over fifteen.
And while it hadn’t been a problem beforehand, it was still nice to see deGrom throwing hard in the ninth inning. The fastball he threw to strike out Willson Contreras to end the game was among the hardest pitches he threw all night.
With a game score of 75, deGrom’s outing was tied for his second-best of this year, tied with his scoreless seven-inning, nine-strikeout start against the Angels on May 19 and just shy of the 76 game score from his eight-and-one-third-inning start in Pittsburgh, during which he struck out ten, walked one, and allowed just one run. Since that measurement relies so heavily upon strikeouts and walks, the complete game loses some ground—though it’s worth pointing out that we’re still counting pitch-less intentional walks, of which the Mets issued one last night, against a pitcher’s record for some reason. Give deGrom that point back, and the start would be tied for his best of the year in this department.
While he still has a 4.33 ERA on the season thanks mostly to the two poor starts he made coming into this one, deGrom looked very much like himself. And it won’t be surprising if he’s challenging his peers in the rotation for the team’s best ERA by the time the season is over.