It’s frustrating to score five runs in a Jacob deGrom start, where he only allows two runs, and not win. There’s plenty of blame to go around and no one can look themselves in the mirror and say they are without fault. In a game that not only could have, but should have been won, the offense, defense and strategic moves all came up short.
Let’s start with deGrom. He gave up a double in the first inning but retired the other six batters he faced and seemed like he was in control of the game. In the first two innings he threw 26 pitches and only one of those was a changeup. And then in the third inning, 12 of his 17 pitches were changeups. He retired the first batter of the fourth inning on three fastballs. But he threw five more changeups to the next two batters and both players hit doubles off changeups before deGrom stopped forcing the pitch.
In 2019, deGrom threw a changeup 16% of the time, according to Pitch Type classification at FanGraphs. So why on earth, on a night when he hit 100 mph multiple times, would he throw his changeup 17 times in 29 pitches? A veteran with the resume of deGrom doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt on who’s calling the pitches.
After the second double of the fourth inning, deGrom threw 15 more pitches and only one was a changeup. In his final two frames, deGrom featured the changeup six times in 18 pitches, an elevated total compared to 2019 but nowhere near the extent of the third and early fourth innings.
The fourth inning was a self-inflicted high-stress inning for deGrom. But he cruised through the fifth and sixth innings. His pitch count sat at 88 pitches and after the back flareup in summer camp, Luis Rojas decided to go to the bullpen. But if you’re going to treat deGrom with kid gloves in the usage department, you can’t turn around and abuse the relievers. We’ve seen this particular abusive move from Terry Collins and Mickey Callaway and it never ends up good.
My opinion is that unless he told you he was done, you have deGrom pitch the seventh inning last night. Pitch counts are a blunt tool and not all pitches are created equally. He only needed 18 pitches to get through the fifth and sixth innings. His fastball still was good and he threw a 94-mph slider to J.D. Martinez in the sixth.
One of the tenets of modern baseball usage is that if a reliever has had a day off, he’s automatically refreshed, no matter how much he’s been used previously. After a four-out appearance on Monday, Seth Lugo was brought in to pitch the seventh. He ended up allowing a game-tying homer. Justin Wilson was brought on to pitch the eighth. He pitched the night before and this was his fourth appearance is six days. Wilson was left in for 23 pitches. Let’s hope he gets more than a day off before his next appearance.
With expanded rosters, the Mets had nine relievers in the pen. But seemingly Rojas had confidence in just three of them. The game plan certainly seemed to be pitch Lugo in the seventh, Wilson in the eighth and Edwin Diaz in the ninth. Why he has confidence in Diaz is a question all in itself. But Diaz was well-rested, not having pitched in three days coming into the game. He enters tonight’s game with four days since his last appearance.
Both Diaz and Jeurys Familia were terrible last year and neither one has been lights out here in 2020. But Diaz was viewed good enough to close out the game in the ninth while Familia wasn’t viewed as fit to pitch the seventh with a one-run lead. Familia did come in and pitch the ninth inning and gave a scoreless inning.
There are reasons to be leery of both Familia and Dellin Betances right now. But there are just as many – if not more – reasons to feel the same way about Diaz. But the brass feels so much more inclined to give Diaz every benefit of the doubt and keep throwing him out exclusively in the ninth inning in save situations.
What if last night worked perfectly? What if Lugo, Wilson and Diaz each pitched a scoreless inning and the Mets won the game 4-2? Lugo and Wilson would still be unavailable to pitch on Thursday and you still have no confidence in Betances and Familia. Tonight, barring a complete game from Steven Matz, we’re looking at Chasen Shreve and Drew Smith to pitch the late innings.
If you only have confidence in three relievers, and one of them you won’t pitch before the ninth inning, you’ve got to make sure the other two aren’t both unavailable on the same day. But that’s what we have now in Game 7 of the season. With a nine-man bullpen. That’s just a failure no matter how you look at it. That it was done while blowing a lead for deGrom just makes it that much harder to accept.