Jacob deGrom started the Mets’ season off by pitching six scoreless innings with ten strikeouts, one walk, and just five hits allowed on 93 pitches—and wasn’t even the most dominant version of himself in the process. Gary Cohen pointed it out during the broadcast, and those who have been lucky enough to watch him pitch regularly were thinking the same thing at home. But throughout his career—and especially as he won the Cy Young last year—deGrom’s strength has been working with what he has and the situation at hand and navigating through it, almost always successfully.
Let’s take a look at what deGrom threw on Opening Day and how he threw it. One start in is far too early to start drawing conclusions, or even start wondering about trends, so this isn’t meant to be that. It’s just sort of marveling at a master of his craft through numbers.
deGrom averaged 96.22 miles per hour on his four-seam fastball, per Brooks Baseball. That’s the hardest he’s ever thrown in his first start of a season, and of all the starts he’s made in March or April, it ranks third out of twenty in average fastball velocity. The only two that exceeded that average came in late April last year, on the 22nd and 28th.
In terms of pitch types, deGrom leaned on that fastball hard. Brooks had him throwing the four-seam fastball 53 times (57%) and didn’t register any sinkers. While there have been a handful of games in which deGrom isn’t listed as having thrown any sinkers, it’s possible that he threw some that just didn’t appear to be sinkers in the data. deGrom threw his slider 26 times (28%), and that combined with the fastball to account for 85 percent of his pitches. He also threw 13 changeups (14%) and one lonely curveball (1%). Last year was the first time his changeup ranked third in his mix over the course of a full season, and given those results, it’s not surprising that it wound up there in his first start of this season.
In total, deGrom got 16 swinging strikes, good for an excellent rate of 17.2 percent. The fastball had a 17 percent swinging strike rate, but the changeup was the star of the show, with Nationals hitters swinging and missing 38.5 percent of the times he threw it. Of all the swinging strikes he got, the nastiest was probably on that changeup he threw to strike out Juan Soto with a runner on third and one out in the sixth.
Again, it’s way too soon to start drawing conclusions. Over his next few starts, trends will start to develop, though it’s hard to imagine he’ll be looking to drastically alter his pitch mix coming off one of the best pitching seasons of all time. But he started the season off looking like himself, and that’s just about as good as it gets.