When the Mets learned, shortly before Opening Day, that their best starting pitcher would be out for several months with a shoulder injury, the sportsbooks adjusted by lowering the team’s season win total by a couple of games. DraftKings, for one, went from 90.5 projected Mets wins to 88.5.
It seemed a reasonable move at the time, not overly reactive but acknowledging the hole that losing two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom would create on the staff. Missing access to deGrom’s greatness for three months equaled two wins, in other words.
But if that’s the case, what will getting deGrom back mean to a team that has pitched as if he never went away?
The Mets’ starting rotation hasn’t just held up without deGrom. It has thrived and, at times, dominated. New York’s starters have a collective ERA of 3.05, better than any National League team outside the NL West, which has three of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball.
It is so much better than the other teams in the Mets’ division, the NL East, the Mets have been able to build a bit of a bulge at the top of the division, with a six-game lead as of Monday morning. Only the Marlins’ rotation (3.50 ERA) is within a half-run of the Mets’ staff.
Pitching depth pays off
Savvy (and costly) additions have been part of the reason the Mets have minimized the impact of deGrom’s right scapula injury, which is expected to keep him out until sometime next month. Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, signed to deals earning them $52 million combined this season, are among a group of 13 major league starters to have produced an ERA under 3.00 and a K/9 of 9.00 or greater so far.
But internal improvement has been a big part of it as well, with Tyler Megill growing from hard thrower into elite starter. The Mets are the only team in the majors with four starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco is the other) to have accrued at least 0.7 fWAR at this point of the season, enviable quality and depth.
The Mets haven’t said much about deGrom’s progress in returning from a stress fracture in his shoulder other than an April 25 update in which they reported healing on his latest MRI and said he would begin “loading and strengthening” his arm, though he wouldn’t throw a baseball for another month. All of which makes it appear that, if deGrom does return in June, it will be closer to the end of the month than the beginning. It certainly looks as if the team’s hot pitching and the sluggishness of the other teams in the division so far have provided the flexibility for the Mets to give deGrom’s rehabilitation all the time it needs.
Sportsbooks taking losses
The Mets, we learned two weeks ago, have been one of the biggest liabilities in MLB for the sportsbooks thus far, as they’ve won 75% of the 24 games in which they were favored. At WynnBET, the Mets are the second-most held ticket to win the World Series after, you guessed it, the Yankees. WynnBET has moved the Mets from 12/1 to 10/1 and, now, 8/1 to win it all.
With mobile sports gambling just having gone legal in January, the sportsbooks could take a serious beating this October if one of the New York teams wins the World Series. New Yorkers already have gambled $6.3 billion in the first four months of legal mobile wagering, volume no other state can match.
Given the impressive early state of the Mets’ pitching, the sportsbooks have done a remarkable job setting run totals in their games this year, quickly adjusting to league conditions and early performance. The team and its opponents have hit the over exactly as many times as the under, going 13-13-3 on run total lines.
The best overall strategy when betting the Mets so far this season would simply have been to hammer the run line, laying or getting 1.5 runs per game, a strategy that has produced a 17-12 record so far, good for a win of 8.54 units (or $854 if you bet $100 on every game) on the season. Betting the Mets’ moneyline in every game so far this season would have produced +5.3 units. That has made the Mets the best gambling proposition in MLB this year other than the surprisingly-not-terrible Arizona Diamondbacks, who would have returned +6.3 units to anyone who played them daily so far.
It’s early, but suffice to say that this has been a good season for New York baseball fans to gain access to legal sports betting at their fingertips.
Photo: Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY