NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Forget his win/loss record. Jacob deGrom had a season for the ages.
Though the Mets suffered through yet another disappointing campaign, the paying public and those watching at home were treated to excellence literally every time deGrom took the mound. As a result, the 30-year-old right-hander is finalist for the NL Cy Young Award.
DeGrom is going up against Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies. The winner is to be announced Wednesday just after 6 p.m.
Scherzer won 18 games and Nola recorded 17 in 2018, but whatever you do, don’t let deGrom’s 10-9 record fool you.
“I don’t know how anybody ever beats him,” Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker said after deGrom blanked his team over eight innings on Sept. 26 at Citi Field. “You don’t like to face him. But you know what? When you do face him, man, you appreciate what he is and what he can do.”
Just to provide some context, the fewest wins by any starting pitcher to win a Cy Young Award is 13. Los Angeles Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela went 13-7 in 25 starts in 1981 and Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez went 13-12 in 34 starts in 2010.
DeGrom had a better season than both, and it’s really not debatable.
And when you consider just how much the Mets abandoned their ace this season, it makes his accomplishments all the more astounding.
The Mets’ biggest problem in 2018 was scoring runs, as they finished 23rd in the majors with 676. They were far worse with deGrom on the mound, often forcing the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year to fend for himself. They went 14-18 in his starts, but he posted a 2.13 ERA in the games the team lost, the lowest number since earned runs became an official stat in 1913, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Mets scored two runs or less in 12 of deGrom’s starts. Though he went 0-7 in those outings, he posted a stellar 1.87 ERA.
It gets better from there.
DeGrom’s consistency proved to be remarkable. In games the Mets scored three to five runs, he went 5-2 with a microscopic 1.24 ERA. When they had that rare offensive explosion, scoring more than five, deGrom went 5-0 and showed he was somewhat human, posting only a 2.36 ERA.
He allowed more than three earned runs in a game just once. So, if the Mets had averaged four runs per game in deGrom’s starts — there were two in which he didn’t pitch the mandatory five innings to be eligible for the win — he would have finished the season 29-0.
Forget Cy Young, that screams MVP.
So why was 2018 so special for the veteran right-hander? His manager said deGrom’s ability goes way beyond physical tools.
”I think it’s his demeanor. I think it’s the way he handles adversity. I think it’s the way he was probably brought up by his parents, how he goes about his business, his work ethic,” Mickey Callaway said. “You can talk about routines and all that, and he accomplishes those every day. … The work that he puts in, the way that he supports his teammates, he’s the ultimate team player. And when he’s out on the mound, he’s the ultimate ace.”
Over the last 50 years, only five pitchers have posted a lower ERA than deGrom’s 1.70 in 2018. They are Zack Greinke (1.66 in 2015), Greg Maddux (1.63 in 1995 and 1.56 in 1994), Dwight Gooden (1.53 in 1985), Nolan Ryan (1.69 in 1981) and Bob Gibson (1.12 in 1968). Of those, only Greinke (Jake Arrieta, 22-6, 1.77 ERA) and Ryan (Valenzuela) didn’t win the Cy Young.
As far as where deGrom stacks up in Mets history, his single-season ERA ranks only behind Gooden’s Cy Young-winning season in ’85, among starting pitchers.
DeGrom joined Pedro Martinez as the only other pitcher since earned runs became an official stat with an ERA less than 2.00, at least 250 strikeouts and fewer than 50 walks in a season.
Knowing all they know, the voters appear to have a pretty easy decision on their hands. That’s not to say that Scherzer and Nola didn’t have Cy Young-caliber seasons. It’s just that deGrom was utterly dominant in literally every facet of his craft, and total wins are more a team statistic than anything else.
“(Wins are) just not in their control,” one Cy Young voter recently told the New York Post. “I think there’s an important distinction between the fact that wins matter to pitchers and even fans — they do! — and how they should matter when evaluating their performance. We have so many better ways now to determine how good a pitcher is at his job, which is giving his team the best chance to win by preventing runs.”
And in 2018, there was no one better.