We’ve dissected the bullpen, lamented the defense and been exasperated about the manager. But today let’s celebrate the two cornerstones of what went right in 2019. The Mets got outstanding seasons from Pete Alonso and Jacob deGrom last year. It’s odd when you can’t say who your best player is. However, fans of Alonso and deGrom can both make a case for that distinction.
Alonso set the franchise record for homers. And on top of that, he set the MLB record for most home runs by a rookie, ending the season with 53 taters. Alonso tied Darryl Strawberry for the fifth-highest slugging percentage in team history, with a .583 mark. And he did this while playing in 161 games, just missing out on becoming the third Mets player ever to play in all 162 games.
It’s almost forgotten now but it was controversial when the Mets took Alonso north to start the year. Many people wanted to keep him in the minors for three weeks to get the extra year of team control. But in one of his best moves of the season, GM Brodie Van Wagenen said he was going to take the best 25 players and it was clear early on that Alonso fit that description.
Also somewhat forgotten now were the claims that Alonso’s defense at first base was so bad that it might make him unplayable. Not only was Alonso’s defense playable, he proved adept at scooping balls out of the dirt, the toughest play that a first baseman actually has to make on a regular basis. By the end of the year, the only complaint about Alonso defensively was that he was too aggressive fielding balls that should have been handled by the second baseman.
Meanwhile, many wondered what deGrom would do for an encore after winning the CY Award in 2018. Whether it was a hangover from the award or the new baseballs or a somewhat defensively-challenged new catcher – deGrom did not get off to a great start in 2019. After nine games, he was 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA. In 52 IP, he allowed 7 HR, compared to 10 HR surrendered in 217 IP the previous year.
In his 10th game of the year, Tomas Nido was behind the plate and we saw an outing like we were used to from deGrom – 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 8 Ks. From that point until the end of the season, deGrom was 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 152 IP. Opposing hitters managed just a .196 AVG against him and a .538 OPS. He was so dominant that the Mets stopped pairing him with Nido and there was no dropoff when Wilson Ramos was behind the plate.
While we know better than to judge a pitcher by his Won-Loss record, we still want to see a starter get rewarded with the Win when he pitches a strong game. And once again, deGrom’s teammates let him down in this regard. He had 13 games where he went at least 6 IP and gave up 2 ER or fewer and got either a no-decision or a loss.
No Mets player ever hit 50 homers in a season. Alonso did it. No Mets player ever won back-to-back CY Awards. Yet deGrom is on the verge of doing that. Alonso plays every day and teams already pitch around him. deGrom has been an asset since he first stepped on an MLB mound and has worked himself into discussion for the best pitcher in baseball.