Thursday, June 17, 2021

Wisdom From the Captain

We have it on excellent authority that the current main concern of New York Mets fans is the health of Jacob deGrom. While we at would never reveal a confidential source, let's just say that he looks an awful lot like the guy on the right. Our source also revealed that human beings need oxygen to function properly, although he didn't offer any data to back up that assertion. As far as the deGrom revelation, that was pretty much a given when Jake exited last night's game against the Cubs after the third inning. While it's fair to say that the news that the MRI on his shoulder came back clean was welcome, it's also fair to note that the unexplained nature of deGrom's physical problems this season is becoming a story in and of itself.

I predict that you're going to come across many different takes on how the Mets should proceed with deGrom from a wide variety of sources. The Mets' decision to take things "day by day" with the best pitcher on the planet is unlikely to satisfy anyone.

More than once today, I've come across the opinion that the Mets should at least temporarily shut down deGrom as a precaution. It's hard to argue against that, except to point out that spending time on the IL already didn't prevent these little nagging problems from surfacing. DeGrom didn't pitch from May 9 until May 25, when he was shut down with the lat injury. He's had 5 starts since he's returned and has experienced problems in the last two.

Jake hasn't experienced notable mechanical problems. There isn't an obvious source of his physical problems. Speculation runs the gamut from "he needs to stop throwing so hard all of the time" to "it's all in his head."

If you choose to believe that deGrom has developed into a hypochondriac this deep into his MLB career, you're entitled to your opinion. I don't believe that at all, but only Jake knows for sure what's going on in his head. There is no objective data to back up anyone's beliefs in the matter, so I'm just going to leave it alone. However, I will note that deGrom had 3 consecutive seasons with > 200 innings before last year's abbreviated schedule, which would make me very skeptical of the whole all in his head thing.

The idea that I believe has some merit is that his velocity has risen once again, and he throws at max velocity all of the time. He does have a marvelously athletic, free and easy delivery. Still, he's turning 33 on Saturday. Maybe the torque and force involved is just too much for a body that is beginning to age. I neglected to get a medical degree in my youth, so I can't provide any real valuable input in this matter. Since deGrom is a bit of a freak, there's not much in the way of comparisons to draw a conclusion from. In any case, if he was going to modify his pitching style to step off of employing full velocity all of the time, he's not going to be comfortable with making that change during the season.

If deGrom continues to endure frustrating, unexplainable physical problems this year, then I believe that changing his pitching style will be something that the club looks at. Big changes will need to wait for the offseason, of course, but possibly some degree of easing off would be merited in-season to see if that helps. I'll leave those decisions in the much more qualified hands of pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, manager Luis Rojas, the front office, and, of course, Jacob deGrom himself. In the meantime, fans like you and I experiencing worry and uncertainty about Jake isn't likely to go away anytime soon.


While Jacob deGrom's health is at the top of our concern list, I've been thinking a lot lately about the health of the two starting pitchers that have carried the team along with deGrom over the past 2-1/2 months. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have been healthy and productive in the early going. Stroman has pitched 77.1 innings over 13 starts. Walker has started 12 times and accumulated 68 IP. As you likely know, Stroman didn't pitch at all last year, while Walker missed almost all of two years in 2018 and 2019 while coming back to pitch 53.1 innings with Seattle and Toronto last season.

Stroman, at least, has a body of work that featured pitching over 200 innings twice and 184 in 2019 split between the Mets and the Blue Jays. Walker has never pitched more than 169.2 innings, which he did with Seattle in 2015. He pitched 134.1 innings in 2016 and 157.1 in 2017 before losing 2 years to Tommy John surgery. Taijuan already had more innings this season than last year. Their usage, particularly Walker's, will be something to watch as the season wears on.

Before Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard experienced setbacks this month, I'm sure the plan was to back off some of the innings for their other starters here and there once the reinforcements came back. That ain't happening now, and Walker and Stroman will be unlikely to see any breaks before the All-Star Game. I do think the Mets need to bring in another starter if they can, but anyone good is liable to command a good pitching prospect in return, and the Mets don't have much in their system right now.

It's been a great first half of June for the Mets, highlighted by reaching the 10 games over the .500 mark last night. Still, the challenges have only just begun. Finding enough pitching to survive the next couple of weeks, particularly with the uncertainty over deGrom, will be a real test. Fortunately, this team has shown that they're up to a challenge, so that bodes well for our chances going forward.

Please be well and take care. And thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Captain.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

1 comment:

  1. Who'd have thunk it, that throwing a round ball at maximum velocity for 100 or so pitches at a time could result in a negative impact on your arm, side, shoulder, elbow or big toe?


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