There are things in life that are just hard to explain. Why does any company hold an online naming contest after Boaty McBoatface won? How does a 10 year old yodeling in Wal-Mart become a music sensation? What does the lower middle class find so appealing about authoritarianism? When will the Mets keep their stars off the disabled list? The world may never know.
One of the most remarkable baseball feats that I can recall is Steve Carlton winning 27 games for a Phillies team that went 59-97 in 1972. When Carlton didn’t get a decision, the team was 32-87. That’s a .269 winning percentage. If they replaced Carlton with a pitcher who replicated the team’s winning percentage, they would have finished the year 44-118. Or they would have finished that if they played 162 games. Because of a player strike in ’72, the Phillies played just 156 games that year.
But while Carlton’s performance was remarkable, it’s not very hard to explain. He was a Hall of Fame pitcher enjoying the best year of his career. On top of that, the Phillies averaged 3.83 runs per game in his starts. In all 156 games that year, they averaged 3.22 runs per game. When someone besides Carlton started a game, the Phillies scored an average of 3.03 runs per game. As best as a bad team could, the Phillies scored when their ace was on the mound.
Which brings us to Jacob deGrom.
The National League average runs per game here in 2018 is 4.33 and the Mets have a 3.79 mark, which like the 1972 Phillies is next to last in the league. But whereas the Phillies came alive when Carlton took the hill, the Mets do the opposite. In games where deGrom starts, the Mets have averaged just 3.52 runs per game. And even that isn’t really indicative of the support he’s received, as there are two outliers that are propping up the overall number. Twice this year, the Mets have scored eight runs in a game that deGrom started. Take those away and in 11 games, the Mets have scored 31 runs, an average of just 2.82 runs per game.
Five times in 13 starts, the Mets have scored two runs or fewer for deGrom. And three times they’ve scored just three runs. It’s how one of the best starters in the game has just four wins and how the team is just 5-8 in games that he starts.
But perhaps there’s a saving grace in all of this. So far this season, deGrom has made four starts during the day and the Mets have scored 19 runs in those games. And as you’re probably aware, deGrom has a fantastic history in day games. This year he’s 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in the sunshine and in his career, his ERA in day games is 1.95, a mark 1.35 runs below his 3.30 lifetime ERA in night games.
So, as deGrom and the Mets have a day game today against the Braves, let’s hope that pattern continues and this offensively-challenged team can give their ace something resembling league-average run support. It doesn’t seem too much to ask a team to do what the ’72 Phillies did. They already have the hard part – having a stud pitcher to play the Carlton role.