Mets ace Jacob deGrom began the 2019 season by firing 13 scoreless innings over his first two starts and looking like he had somehow gotten better than he was in 2018 during his Cy Young campaign. Since then, things have not gone well.
DeGrom gave up six runs on eight hits (including three homers) while walking one and striking out three in just 4.0 innings on April 9 against the Twins at Citi Field. On Sunday night against the Braves in Atlanta, deGrom allowed three runs on five hits (including two homers) in 5.0 innings. While he struck out nine, he also walked four -- an alarming number for someone who walked just 1.9 batters per 9 in 2018.
That deGrom has allowed five homers over his last two starts is also startling when you consider the fact that he allowed just 10 homers all of last season.
The sample size is tiny and the even money should be on deGrom returning to dominance during his next start, but these four stats help explain why deGrom has been struggling...
The chase rate against him is way down
There were some rumblings during Sunday night's game, including from inside the ESPN booth, that hitters were laying off pitches they usuaully chase -- specifically Josh Donaldson laying off a very good changeup -- and looking as if they were sometimes sitting on certain pitches.
According to Baseball Savant, hitters are chasing just 25.4 percent of the pitches deGrom has thrown ouitside the zone this season. That's the lowest rate of his career and is way down from the 35.4 percent chase rate he induced in 2018.
The launch angle against him is way up
There has been an emphasis on launch angle over the last few seasons as players look to generate more power. Over his career, deGrom has been one of the best pitchers in baseball when it comes to preventing hitters from elevating his pitches, with the highest launch angle he ever allowed being just 10.6 percent. This season, that number has jumped to 16 percent.
Hitters are making much more solid contact
While they have chased less and generated much more power, hitters are also making solid overall contact against deGrom at a better rate this season than at any other point in his career.
The barrel percentage (which measures exit velocity and launch angle) against him this season is 14.3 percent -- a number that has skyrocketed from the 4.1 percent it was in 2018. For his career, deGrom's barrel percentage allowed is just 5.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the hard hit percentage against deGrom this season is 47.6 percent -- a number that has skyrocketed from the 28.7 percent it was in 2018, which was in the top seven percent of the league. For his career, deGrom has allowed a 30 percent hard hit percentage.
His line drive and ground ball rates have gone haywire
If it seems like batters are hitting the ball harder against deGrom this season while not hitting nearly as many balls on the ground, the numbers bear that out.
The line drive rate against deGrom this season is 34.7 percent (up from 22.9 percent in 2018), while his ground ball rate is way down (30.6 percent this season, while his career rate is 47.3 percent).
Again, the odds are that deGrom is going to break out of this in his next start. But until that happens, the above numbers are among the ones to keep an eye on.