Inside Jacob deGrom’s Dominance

Jack Kelly, Staff Writer

When you think about some of the greatest single season pitching performances in MLB history, you think of Bob Gibson in 1968 and Pedro Martinez in 2000. Both of these Hall Of Fame pitchers posted some of the best numbers of their storied careers in these special seasons. Since then, there have been other great seasons by many great pitchers, but not too many are in the conversation of Gibson and Martinez. However, the 2021 season might be able to give us a season to compare to these two all time greats, as New York Mets Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom has been dominant this season.

deGrom has been one of the best pitchers of this generation. The former college shortstop made his MLB debut back on May 15, 2014 at Citi Field against the crosstown rival New York Yankees. deGrom was never a highly touted prospect throughout his time in the minors, as he made his debut when he was 25,  but on this night he delivered a special performance, going seven innings and only giving up one run. deGrom went on to finish that season making 21 more starts for the Mets, recording a 9-6 record with a 2.69 ERA, making him the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year. 

In 2015, deGrom took his performance to another level in his first full season, as he finished with a 14-8 record and lowered his ERA to 2.54. He also made his first All Star Game and finished seventh in NL Cy Young balloting this season, while the Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals in 5 games in the World Series. 

In 2016, deGroms season was cut short due to an injury, but his numbers were still at a strong level, as he went 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA. Even with generally good numbers compared to the rest of the league, this season wasn’t the greatest compared to his first two seasons in the big leagues. deGrom saw career worsts in WHIP, hits per nine and strikeouts per nine in an underwhelming third year. 

2017 is the year things changed for deGrom. His numbers took another slide, as his ERA climbed to a career worst 3.53. The season didn’t have the greatest start, but in his first 11 starts degrom was 4-2 with a 3.97 ERA, however, he was striking people out more than ever, with 92 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. On June 6 that year, deGrom had the worst start of his career down in Texas against the Rangers. deGrom only went four innings, giving up ten hits, eight runs, and only striking out two. This outing raised deGrom’s ERA to 4.75 for the season. In the dugout, deGrom was visibly upset with himself when the Mets manager at the time Terry Collins came over and was seen with his arm around his pitcher, talking to him. The rest of that season deGrom pitched to a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts, showing signs of the deGrom we had seen in his first two years.

2018 brought a new and improved deGrom. Yes, he did cut off his long curly hair that he was infamous for, but in this season deGrom skyrocketed to post some of the best numbers that we have seen in the past couple decades. deGrom finished the year with his second All Star appearance, a 1.70 ERA, career bests in WHIP, hits per nine and strikeouts per nine. The Mets team that season was not a good one, as despite these monstrous numbers by deGrom, he finished with a 10-9 record. Despite the record (which is not a great start for stat starting pitchers) deGrom won the top honor for a pitcher in baseball, the Cy Young Award, while also finishing fifth in the MVP voting. 

Before the 2019 season, deGrom and the Mets agreed to terms on a 5 year contract extension worth $137.5 million. In this season, deGrom’s ERA rose to 2.43, as he finished with another mediocre record of 11-8. deGrom continued to set new career bests in strikeouts per nine, which was up to 11.3. deGrom made his third All Star Game and won his second consecutive Cy Young Award. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot around the world. The 2020 MLB season was a shortened 60 game season, where deGrom posted a 2.38 ERA and a best 13.8 strikeout per nine. He finished third in Cy Young voting this season. 

deGrom, who is now 33 years old, already has had a storied career with some of the best performances through his first seven seasons, but somehow he keeps getting better and better. So far in 2021 through his first ten starts, deGrom has a 6-2 record and has given up only four earned runs in 64 innings pitched, good enough for a miniscule 0.56 ERA. He also is sporting a remarkable 0.53 WHIP, while only giving up 3.7 hits per nine, walking 1.1 per nine and striking out 14.5 batters per nine. Obviously the chances of deGrom finishing with an ERA below 1.00 this season are slim to none, but based on the first ten starts, deGrom is destined for one of the greatest seasons we have ever seen. 

deGrom is doing all of this while being the hardest throwing starting pitcher in MLB. Early in his career, deGrom’s fastball would average somewhere in the 94-96 MPH area, with an occasional 97 here and there. But as he has gotten older, deGrom’s average velocity on every pitch has only risen. So far in 2021, deGrom’s fastball is averaging 99.2 MPH, with some nights where he gets as high as 102 MPH. He also throws his slider and changeup in the low to mid 90’s, stuff that is not normal for anyone. His fastball is so overpowering that he is throwing it more than 60% of the time. 

Comparing deGrom’s start to the start of some of the other all time great seasons, through his first ten starts in 1968, Bob Gibson had a 1.52 ERA. He finished the year at 1.12, one of the best seasons of all time. Like everything however, things evolve and change. Gibson finished the season with over 300 innings pitched, a number that no player could reach in today’s world. deGrom will finish this season somewhere in the 185-210 innings pitched range. What has also changed is the amount of strikeouts in baseball. In 1968, Gibson finished with 268 strikeouts in 304.2 innings pitched, for a mark of 7.9 per nine. So far this season, deGrom has 103 in 64 innings pitched, for an incredible mark of 14.5 per nine.

If you want to compare deGrom’s start to a great season of more recent times, look no further than Pedro Martinez in 2000. This season Pedro finished with a 1.74 ERA in 217 innings pitched and 284 strikeouts, which equates to 11.8 per nine. In Pedro’s first ten starts, he posted a 1.05 ERA.

deGrom is one of the most special pitchers we have seen in a long time, and there is no end in sight for his dominance. Should he continue on his ridiculous start to the 2021 season, we could be comparing this to some of the all time great ones of Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez. In the meantime, we should just appreciate the greatness of deGrom, and not take any time he takes the mound for granted.