Jacob Degrom, Max Scherzer and Edwin Diaz Share Preview of the Mets’ Big Budget Plan for Success in October

If the atmosphere at Citi Field this weekend seems like a watershed series, it’s because the New York Mets – of all teams – made a trailer for a feature they hope to debut in October. It stars Max Scherzer, Jacob Degrom and Edwin Diaz. And unreasonably, they are all on the same side.

It’s been just over eight months since the Mets, under general manager Billy Ebler and the passionate eye of team owner Steve Cohen, secured the services of Scherzer on a three-year, $130 million contract. And all the while, they’ve been waiting to see to see Scherzer, DeGrom, DeGrom and Scherzer, play in real life in the important games.

The five-game match played in New York this weekend was significant. The Mets 3 entered games 1/2 in the NL East on a Braves who, characteristically, started slow and shot into the picture. The finale promised Degroom’s second start of the season after a multiple-injury saga, and his first on home soil in over a year.

The last time a deGrom game was played in front of a Citi Field crowd, on July 7, 2021, the Mets were also first, 4 1/2 games. Once he went to IL with an elbow injury at the end of the season, well, their fortunes turned for the worse. Really, if you had to convince a worried Mets fan to reveal their doom-eyes for the rest of 2022, you’d probably start with the news that the Mets have climbed into the catbird seat and stuck with it for so long without deGrom.

How they managed to manage this shift from chaos to efficiency is a different story – one that begins with manager Buck Showalter and undoubtedly includes the intense influence of Scherzer – but is now secondary to the tangibly exciting prospects of the team that took the field against the Braves.

The Mets didn’t just avoid repeating the usual disaster in 2022. They snatched the NL East by the throat, taking four of the Braves’ five in a showdown of how their power plays in a playoff series.

Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer form a devilish double punch at the top of the Mets spin.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer form a devilish double punch at the top of the Mets spin. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

How the Mets’ flashy trio of shooting stars prepare them for the World Championship competition

Admittedly, baseball’s style of crowning a champion is a forced marriage of contradictions. For 162 games, the best teams appear overall by building broad waves of talent who can overcome individual roadblocks and withstand six months of headwinds. Then, when the calendar turns to October, a few lucky clubs can turn to fire hoses and blast opponents with the disproportionate help of the sport’s best shooters.

So cheered 2019’s wealthiest Washington citizens, among others, during the playoffs. And for all the glory of role players like Daniel Vogelbach, the post-season tendency to lend star bowlers with big roles should provide Mets fans with the biggest boost from that unfamiliar feeling: hope.

On the stellar thrower front, the Mets have the strongest potential firepower in baseball. Even with DeGrom’s soft pedal ratings, FanGraphs see starting rotation as the best in MLB. The ZIPS projection system sees Diaz and deGrom have the first and third best ERAs among all shooters for the rest of the season. Steamer’s projection system thinks they’ll be one by two, with no Scherzer lag.

Across five games in four days – a reflection of the October schedule – the Braves got a taste of how devastating a combo can be. The Mets Scherzer, deGrom or Diaz threw at 29.9 of their hitter. The upset of the system—Matt Olson and Austin Riley—fell in against one of the fearsome trio in 14 of 44 turns, or 31.8% of their board backs.

Those percentages will rise in October, as a seven-game streak includes two days off, and perhaps a 50% flirt if Scherzer inserts himself back into the Bullpen picture.

Spurred on by the idea that the Mets needed him to get deep into the second game of Saturday’s double, Scherzer represented the biggest part of the weekend’s innings. He went seven frames and hit 11 while not allowed to walk or run to the best Braves ace Max Fried and took a chain win.

Scherzer, who turned 38 less than two weeks ago, has shown Psycho Dad Strength for a while now. If the Mets have long been the gifted kid who might wander absent-minded off a cliff, then Scherzer is baseball player John McClain—every bald and sweaty man somehow saves the kid and carries him 12 miles out of the woods with wits and sheer will.

Diaz also picked up extra work this weekend, scoring his first two goals in the opener, then back to shut the door on Saturday and Sunday. He performed the rare trick of leaving and returning to New York. The first rough appearance of 2019 — after joining the controversial deal that sent top prospect Jared Kielnik to Seattle — has now fizzled out due to the jubilant trumpets of his brand’s entry-level music. Right now he’s out 52.9% of the hits he’s taking, which is the best ever in a 162-game season if he can keep up.

Can Jacob Degrom stay in the picture?

Then there is deGrom. It’s the Subway that’s the longest in its position, the most durable of the crew, the reason All Hope still has an advantage, and the feeling it might be balanced on the tip of a needle.

The modern deGrom classic is, without exaggeration, the best round baseball has ever seen – a Terminator that’s too powerful to fit in a lab. He throws a fastball at over 100mph and then a slider that shoots at a comical speed of 93-95mph. Sometimes he’ll engage with lone balls and shifts, but that’s primarily out of consideration for the traditional concept of what a novice bowler needs to be successful, not out of reality—that he can break into every baseball batsman by two games.

In the 102 2/3 runs since the start of last season, DeGrom has had 164 strikes while giving up 44 hits and only 12 walks. There were 17 blessed and impressive starts and 17 total rounds, only 14 obtained.

His 1.23 Era, adjusted for Park and Era, comes in at 334 ERA+, which means he was 234% better than the average bowler during that time. It’s hard to fathom anything but the comparison, so here’s the only real baseball comparisons to offer: Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season, the holy grail of modern shooting tops, hit 291 ERA+. Bob Gibson set the record at 1.12 ERA in 1968, the year of the pitcher, and he hit 258+ ERA.

Even over a slightly longer period of time, since the start of 2018, DeGrom has been oddly dominant — 1.95 ERA on 591 2/3 innings, more than double the average bowler by park-adjusted metrics. The best bowlers in the league aren’t that efficient at working in three-strokes. What DeGrom does is a bit like Elite Closer who happens to run for five, six, or seven rounds at a time.

On Sunday, it was perfect for 5 2/3 runs. The Braves missed their first 18 flips on his extraterrestrial slide before Michael Harris II finally missed two of them.

The problem, of course, is that DeGrom’s rise to the outer limits of what’s possible on a heap has some feelings of Icarus. The elbow problem, the setback, and the separate stress reaction that kept him aside for a year had planted questions in people’s minds: Could he practically do this over the 200 or more rounds that Martinez and Gibson threw? Can he do that even more than 170? What if human arms couldn’t throw 102 with balls breaking 95 mph for multiple turns simultaneously?

We won’t answer these big questions in 2022, at least not in the affirmative. We’ll only find out if he can do it during October.

If he could, the Mets have a triple threat that would stand taller than anything else the team could offer in MLB playoff form. Now that we’ve seen the preview, the anticipation can begin.

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