Life Without DeGrom: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you’ve followed the MLB over the last 70 years you know that Mets fans have had their fair share of heartbreak and disappointment. Mets fans and misery go together like cookies and milk, Redbull vodkas and bad decisions, you name it. This week the baseball gods decided to harass Mets fans earlier than usual as the team announced that ace Jacob deGrom would be forced to miss the first month of the season after suffering a “stress reaction in his scapula” while playing catch during spring training. While I’m sure most Mets fans feel like the frog pictured below, the show must go on. Let’s take a look at how the team should shape out during deGrom’s absence.

Mets fan pictured moments after hearing the news about his team's ace.

The Good: Pitching Depth & Lineup

Even though losing deGrom is a massive blow, Steve Cohen and the front office have put together a roster that should be able to (temporarily) survive without him. Part of the reason the Mets will live through this early season nightmare is their pitching depth. Now that the Mets can’t send out the best pitcher in baseball on Opening Day, they will be forced to trot out arguably the second best pitcher in baseball in Max Scherzer. Scherzer is no stranger to the ace role and he put up another dominant year last year and we expect him to do the same this year. Rounding out the top three are off-season acquisition Chris Bassitt in addition to Taijuan Walker. Bassitt is a stud coming off a year in which he posted a 3.15 ERA through 27 starts and although Taijuan Walker crumbled down the stretch last year, his early season performance was enough to land him a spot on the all-star team. The top of this rotation is still probably in the top 10 around the MLB, which speaks volumes about the rotation depth for the Mets. The final two spots will belong to some combination of Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, and Tylor Megill. Megill and Peterson are both young with above average-ceilings and low floors, so it is tough to know what we will get from either of them early on. Carrasco on the other hand is a veteran who is looking to return to the all-star form he once pitched at after an abysmal injury-ridden ’21 season. Carrasco will definitely begin the season in the rotation and in my opinion Peterson should be the fifth guy for the time being, just to mix a lefty into an all-righty rotation. The bottom of the rotation can be expected to change based on performance. I expect one of these three to rise to the occasion and pitch some valuable innings which would leave us in a fine position to weather the storm while deGrom is sidelined.

The new and improved lineup should also give these starters some much needed support after an underwhelming performance at the plate during the 2021 campaign. I believe Starling Marte is the new face that will have the biggest effect on the Mets lineup. His ability to hit for average (.311 AVG in 2021) & then manufacture runs on the base-paths (league leading 47 stolen bases in ’21) will be monumental for an offense who struggled to string hits together last season. Mark Cahna is another off-season pick up who’s patience at the dish should positively effect the lineup. Although he does not hit for average, his ability to draw walks should benefit a lineup that was in the bottom 10 in the league in that category last year. Eduardo Escobar is the final off-season acquisition who will bolster the lineup after a 2021 season that saw him post a .270 AVG and an all-star appearance. The Mets can always depend on Nimmo to get on base and hit for average and Pete Alonso to hit balls out of the park. Lindor has been tearing the cover off the ball this spring training, which is a good sign entering the season (yes I know the games don’t count). A bounce back performance from Jeff McNeil or James McCann as well as high performance from Cano, JD Davis, and Dom Smith out of the DH spot (I highly expect one of the DH guys to rise to the occasion), should have the offense humming throughout the season.

The Bad: The Bullpen

While the rotation and lineup improved this off-season, here is a unit that I expect to struggle. Possibly even more-so than I expected while deGrom is sidelined every fifth day. It is important to realize that as the year begins managers are not apt to stretching their starters too late into the game and wearing them out early in the season. The bulk of our bullpen (Edwin Diaz, Miguel Castro, Seth Lugo, Trevor May) all posted ERA’s in the 3.50 range which is a verrrrry sketchy number if they can be expected to eat up more innings in deGrom’s absence. Off-season acquisition Adam Ottavino finished with a 4.20 ERA: sub-par. Trevor Williams and Chasen Shreve both posted respectable numbers in ’21, but I wouldn’t expect the Mets to rely on guys who have been inconsistent throughout their careers to say the least. This unit has to either start the season strong or prepare to lose a bunch of heartbreakers in the month of April.

The Ugly: DeGrom Enters "Injury Prone" Territory & Baseball Loses a Star

Jacob deGrom’s absence on opening day is not only bad for the Mets, it is bad for baseball. In the case of the Mets, it is tough to see so much promise and hype that built up during the off-season get snuffed out one week before Opening Day. The first doubts about the team are already being cast and the first pitch hasn’t even been thrown yet. The face of baseball in New York City (probably along with Judge & Stanton just so we don’t get hate mail from Yankees fans) will be sidelined to start the year. However, deGrom’s reach goes far beyond just New York. He is the premier pitcher in the game today, a flame-throwing strikeout king who is an absolute must-watch every time he toes the slab. In my opinion, the most exciting players in baseball are the guys who hit a bunch of homers, the guys who steal a bunch of bases / leg out triples, and the pitchers who throw the ball 100 MPH past everybody. For a sport that is trying to compete with the exciting athletes of the NFL and NBA, losing one of the best players in the league is a huge blow. Not to mention this is deGrom’s second notable injury in less than a year. While I think it’s early to throw him into the category of “injury prone” players, I’m sure most of the fans around the league are beginning to wonder if these injuries are becoming a common theme with deGrom. For the sake of the Mets and on behalf of baseball fans across the world, we here at Animal House wish deGrom a speedy recovery.

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