The 2021 season did not end as planned for the New York Mets. Into the middle of the summer, a deep October run seemed possible, but this hope quickly faded down the stretch. Now that we’re in the offseason, it seems appropriate to reflect on the positives and negatives of this year’s squad. And what better place to start than by giving out a most valuable player award? This is a fairly easy call–the Mets’ MVP in 2021 was Jacob deGrom. Not only was he their best player, but when his season was cut short by injury, it demonstrated just how valuable he truly is.
deGrom went on the IL with right elbow inflammation in mid-July. The injury initially seemed mild, but it nagged him to the point where he couldn’t return for the rest of the season. Luckily, there was no structural damage to his elbow, and he should be ready for 2022. However, it’s too bad that we didn’t get to see a full season of deGrom at (supposedly) the height of his powers. This week, MLB announced finalists for the major awards, including the Cy Young Award. In the National League, Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer, and Zack Wheeler made the top 3. Had deGrom stayed healthy, it’s hard to believe there would even be a race. He would’ve almost certainly run away with the award.
2021: Peak deGrominance
Jacob deGrom never looked more dominant than he did in 2021, and that’s saying a lot for a two-time Cy Young winner. The 33-year-old righty was in the process of chasing down the late, great Bob Gibson for the single-season ERA record. Gibson ended the 1968 season with a 1.12 ERA. deGrom spent a good chunk of the first half under 1.00. When his season was cut short, he sat at 1.08. It would’ve been tough for deGrom to stay below 1.12 all season. However, the fact he’s the first pitcher in years to even come close speaks to how unique a talent he is.
Across the board, deGrom’s numbers were magnificent. In 15 starts, he was 7-2 with 146 strikeouts, a .129 BAA, a 0.554 WHIP, and a 373 ERA+. He also had a 5.0 WAR to lead the team, even while missing the last two-plus months. He was easily the best pitcher in the game while he was active. Had he gone another 15 starts this year and even approached the numbers from his first 15, we’d be talking about one of the greatest seasons of all time by a pitcher.
Why deGrom is the 2021 Mets MVP
In the past, the Mets’ lineup notoriously failed time and again to give deGrom adequate run support. Despite his brilliance, the team somehow managed to lose more often than not with him on the mound. Luckily, this changed in 2021, as the Mets won 11 of the 15 games he started.
The offense’s flipping of the script in deGrom’s starts was a major reason why the Mets spent so much time atop the NL East to start the year. deGrom has almost always been reliable as a table-setter. He will generally give up anywhere from zero to two runs in his starts. That just leaves it up to the offense to pick him up. In the past, it wasn’t a rare occurrence for deGrom to have to pick himself up at the plate. After all, few others would. In 2021, despite a below-average offense, the Mets did just enough for him. Without the strong pitching from deGrom and Taijuan Walker in the first half, New York’s playoff hopes would have faded much more quickly.
Of course, after deGrom went down, the Mets fell off the cliff in the second half. The offense, which had struggled all season long, never sufficiently improved. Walker’s performance sharply declined after a strong start. Without deGrom, their ace and lynchpin, they went from division leaders to just another team with a losing record. Even Pete Alonso, who was, by far and away, their best offensive player, could not save the team’s fortunes by himself. Since deGrom was a singularly dominant pitcher while healthy this season, and the team promptly failed to stay afloat in his absence, he demonstrated the true definition of value to one’s team. There could be no other choice for Mets MVP in 2021.
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