How much is two months of Jacob deGrom worth? A win? Two wins? Maybe three?
As great as the New York Mets’ two-time Cy Young award winner is, quantifying the loss of one starting pitcher to a five-man staff can be tricky. It depends on the replacement starter. It depends on the hitters’ and relievers’ performances in those games. It depends who the opponents are. It depends how healthy those opponents are when they play you.
In other words, it’s complicated, and how bettors solve the riddle is where there’s money to be made on this team.
After the news that deGrom would miss the first couple of months of the MLB season with a stress reaction in his right scapula, the sportsbooks responded by dropping the regular season wins total for the Amazins by two to three games. Caesars, for one, moved them from 90.5 wins to 87.5. DraftKings reduced their over/under from 90.5 to 88.5.
The medical report
The key question is whether deGrom’s injury could be more prolonged than the initial prognosis. According to Johns Hopkins, only about 10% of scapula fractures require surgery. The medical consensus seems to be that recovery time is around eight to 12 weeks, which should put deGrom on target for a June 1-ish return. His last pitch was on March 27.
Take it from someone who knows:
Since this injury technically should be named after me I can say that this really isn’t a big deal. Not as big as it seems. He’ll be just fine. https://t.co/U9X5gcaN65
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) April 1, 2022
In April and May of last season, deGrom was even more impossible to hit than usual. In his first eight games, he pitched to a 0.71 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP and held opponents to a .408 OPS. The Mets went 5-3 in those games.
They cratered after deGrom made his final start of the season on July 7, going 31-47 the rest of the way. Of course, they didn’t have Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, or Starling Marte last season either. Presuming they’re in contention in late July, new owner Steve Cohen almost certainly will be willing to spend freely to add help just as deGrom, presumably, is hitting his stride.
The path to more than 88 wins
Sportsbooks, of course, can avail themselves of the same publicly available metrics the rest of us can. FanGraphs projects the Mets to win 89 games. This is a quality team that was probably due for a rebound even before all of the offseason additions.
Whether the Mets meet win projections could be affected by additional news developments, such as whether Scherzer’s sore hamstring will cost him starts. Depending on how healthy Carlos Carrasco proves to be, the Mets could run out of pitching depth with another early injury blow or two.
The Mets are in a competitive division, with the Braves and Phillies seemingly primed to improve on their 2021 regular seasons. The deGrom news in and of itself shouldn’t sway the Mets’ chances much more than the sportsbooks have acknowledged, but one more piece of bad news could send them spinning too long to live up to expectations.
What about the Yankees?
It has been a quiet spring in Tampa, just as the Yankees needed it to be, given their awful injury luck the past several seasons.
The NY sportsbooks seem to have reached a fairly confident stance on the Bronx Bombers, with seven of them pegging the Yankees’ season win total at 91.5. FanDuel goes even higher, putting the number at 92.5.
The Dodgers have the loftiest wins projection, generally at 98.5, with the young and talented Blue Jays frequently the second choice at 92.5. The Yanks are pegged among the third-highest in win totals along with the Chicago White Sox, Braves and Houston Astros.
A stacked roster
Much of the Yankees’ preseason analysis has centered on Gerrit Cole, but he’s the least of their worries. Cole’s consistency has been remarkable, with top-5 Cy Young finishes in five of his last seven seasons. The rest of the rotation has a chance to be quite good, with Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, Mike Montgomery, and Nestor Cortes Jr. following Cole.
The bullpen isn’t as thick with brand names as some Yankees relief corps of the past, but that’s not a bad thing. This bullpen is still young behind closer Aroldis Chapman and has a chance to be special. FanGraphs projects this Yankees ‘pen to produce 5.0 WAR, most in the majors.
When you look at the names in this lineup, it’s almost impossible to believe that this team was only barely above average offensively last year. The Yankees’ 101 wRC+ ranked ninth in the majors and fourth in their own division.
That will have to change for the Yankees to be the World Series contender the sportsbooks think they are. Their +900 odds from DraftKings to win it all are shorter than all teams aside from the Dodgers and Blue Jays.
A lot could hinge on the Yankees’ ability to turn slick-fielding shortstop Isaiah Kiner-Falefa into a more productive hitter and whether second baseman Gleyber Torres takes a stride forward, but the thump will again mostly come from the corners of the infield and outfield. Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Donaldson all have 30-plus home run potential.
Clear path to 92-plus wins
Unlike the Mets, this Yankees team offers at least the veneer of stability. While the championship drought of 13 years must seem insufferable to a fan base spoiled with consistent World Series parades, the Yankees have won at least 91 games in every full season since 2016.
Yes, the Blue Jays are exceptionally talented, but the rest of the division potentially isn’t as strong as it normally is, with the Red Sox stuck on mediocre and the Rays showing signs of stepping back a bit, especially after they traded Austin Meadows to the Tigers on Monday.
It’s not at all difficult to imagine New York winning more than 91 games, perhaps appreciably more.
Two intriguing player props (odds via DraftKings):
Judge total home runs (36.5)
If he stays mostly healthy, Judge should sail past this number like one of his moon shots arcing over the left-field bleachers. In the only two seasons of his career in which he has played more than 115 games, he has comfortably cleared the total, mashing 52 home runs in 2017 and 39 last season. Clearly, he has had more than his share of injuries to contend with, but he’s 29 and coming off a healthy season, so why fret it? Pitchers are going to have to pick their poison in this lineup and Judge will get his opportunities.
Bassitt strikeouts (170.5)
This pickup was among the Mets’ most underrated acquisitions of the off-season, but the sportsbooks might have gotten a little too carried away here. Bassitt, 33, has only twice made 27 starts in a season, and his career high for strikeouts is 159. His four-seam fastball averages 92.3 mph, which is pedestrian by today’s standards, and he relies more on soft contact than swings and misses. His whiff rate was in the 32nd percentile in 2021. Consider hammering the under here.
Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY