Jacob deGrom Injury: What’s The Texas Rangers’ Outlook Now?
Rangers star pitcher Jacob deGrom will reportedly undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time. Just months after debuting for Texas after being signed away from the Mets in free agency, his season has ended. With the Rangers in the thick of contention, what does the Jacob deGrom injury mean for their chances?
Rangers Odds Surprisingly Stable After deGrom Injury
One week ago, bettors could have found Texas to win the World Series around +1800. That might seem like a crazy price for a team that had the second-best record in baseball and the best run differential.
In fact, not only has Texas gotten tremendous results thus far, but they have deserved even better. FanGraphs’ BaseRuns metric, which strips out sequencing luck, has Texas as a 42-win team, second only to Tampa Bay.
But one must remember that Texas opened the season around +5000. They weren’t even considered a top-two team in their own division.
Without deGrom, one might presume, those chances have crashed hard. The consensus best pitcher in baseball when available, deGrom has truly astonishing numbers. He has a roughly 2.08 ERA since 2018. His FIP isn’t much higher at 2.11.
And yet, Rangers World Series odds have fallen all the way to … . What gives here? Why hasn’t the Jacob deGrom injury moved the needle?
Rangers Staff Thriving Without deGrom
Consider that deGrom, who last pitched in April, has only even made six starts and thrown 30 innings for the Rangers. Sure, they’ve been typically awesome deGrom innings — 2.67 ERA with a comical 39.1% strikeout rate — but even that adds up to 1.4 fWAR. Take that away, and the Rangers have still had a top-10 pitching staff.
Nate Eovaldi has assumed the mantle as the ace of the staff. He’s second in the AL in pitcher WAR, trailing only Kevin Gausman, and finds himself in the hunt in AL Cy Young odds. Jon Gray, Martin Perez and Andrew Heaney have all delivered solid work.
In fact, deGrom’s replacement, Dane Dunning, has done his best deGrom impression with a 2.52 ERA. Sure, it won’t last as his estimators are mostly around 4.7, but Dunning has a 4.14 career ERA and could plausibly perform well enough to keep the Rangers tacking on wins.
Rangers Bats Powering Elite Offense
Texas’ position players have produced more WAR than any other team besides Tampa Bay. Sure, a good chunk has come from their strong defense — they rank eighth in Statcast Outs Above Average — but the bats have still gotten off to a thunderous start.
Again, only Tampa Bay has a stronger offense by wRC+. The Rangers have certainly gotten some good fortune — they lead MLB in batting average on balls in play by a wide margin — but they still have the fifth-best xWOBA. Their contact quality has been great, they have a bottom-10 chase rate, so their swing decisions are generally sound.
And Corey Seager has missed a good chunk of their season. Projected as one of their top-two players, having Seager going forward should help greatly.
So, the operative question for bettors is, can the Rangers remain in contention?
Where Do Rangers Go From Here Following deGrom Injury?
Unfortunately for Texas fans who haven’t had anything nice in some time, I’m inclined to think the Rangers’ World Series dreams have ended with the Jacob deGrom injury. I thought this team had a World Series ceiling prior to the season, but I think that’s out the window without their ace.
A lot of what Texas has done just doesn’t feel that sustainable. Eovaldi is a good pitcher but not a great one. And he’s likely to find himself on the IL at some point. Ditto Andrew Heaney, who has not reached 162 IP (award qualifying threshold) since 2018.
And the bullpen looms as a major postseason issue, when games are close and relief pitching becomes magnified. The group has been terrible so far, which tracks with preseason expectations. And that’s with Will Smith producing an exemplary season so far. His projections rate considerably worse.
The offense and defense should remain strong, but I do expect some regression in the former group. They may hang in contention for the division, but the ceiling doesn’t look high enough to have any chance of World Series contention.
Truthfully, if I were to make on bet following the Jacob deGrom injury, it would probably be a shot on Houston to take the AL West. FanGraphs projections have the race as a coin flip, but I agree with most of the market that Houston should be favored now despite a 4 1/2 game deficit. At -115 on DraftKings, that might be worth a play, but I’ll just hope for a miracle run from my Angels AL West ticket from Spring Training.