An MMO Fan Shot by Marc Epstein
Somewhat obscured by the numerous disappointments, inconsistencies, injuries, failures, and blown bullpen leads during the first two months of the season has been the sheer dominance of the undisputed ace of our pitching staff and 2018 Cy Young candidate, the homegrown, likable, unflappable, dominant, former college shortstop turned 9th round draft pick turned Mets ace, Jacob deGrom.
No doubt, there has been considerable stench to filter and substantial frustration to endure during this roller-coaster of a season for Mets fans. The banishment to Cincinnati of Dark Knight Matt Harvey, the deterioration of all-time Mets great Jose Reyes, the dumpster fire that is Jason Vargas, the ineffectiveness of Jerry Blevins, the wildness of AJ Ramos, the mediocrity of Jay Bruce, and the injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Swarzak, and Juan Lagares all weigh heavily on the organization and the fan base.
However, if you hit the pause button on the negativity and focus, just for a minute, on our biggest positive asset, you’ll be glad you took the time to truly appreciate the historic career year that is flowing from the priceless right arm of The Degrominator and unfolding before our eyes.
It’s time to proclaim Jacob deGrom’s rightful place in the pantheon of great Mets pitchers on a franchise that has always been defined by its pitching. He is the best Mets starting pitcher of the last quarter century, and one of our best ever, which is saying something since pitching has historically been the hallmark of the club, and the franchise has only been around a little more than a half century. There, I said it, but saying it is not enough. I have to shout it from the rooftops so everyone can hear it clearly. JACOB DEGROM IS THE BEST METS STARTING PITCHER OF THE LAST QUARTER CENTURY. Every Mets fan needs to recognize what he is, pay attention to what he is doing, and appreciate it while it’s happening, because it’s so special.
This is Jake’s fifth season with the Mets, so we have a four seasons plus two months sample size to review, starting with the 2014 Rookie of the Year’s Age 26 season. That year, deGrom burst onto the scene and was thrown right into a Subway Series matchup against the Yankees. He pitched a 7-inning, one-run gem that was a harbinger of many more good things to come. He finished his freshman campaign with a 9-6 record in 22 starts. He amassed 144 Ks in 140.1 IP, more than a strikeout per inning, with an ERA of 2.69 and a WHIP of 1.14. His ERA exceeded the 2.76 mark put on the board by The Franchise, Tom Seaver, during his 1967 Rookie of the Year debut season. That’s rarified air.
There was no sophomore jinx awaiting deGrom in 2015. He followed up his impressive rookie season with an even better encore performance, tallying a 14-8 mark in 30 game starts, with an even lower 2.54 ERA and a microscopic 0.98 WHIP as he was a key contributor to the Mets 5th NL pennant in franchise history. Jacob was stellar in his three starts against the Dodgers and Cubs in the first two rounds of the playoffs before faltering in his lone World Series start against the Royals. He was denied redemption when Game 6 never materialized, but overall, his postseason line still stands at 3-1, 2.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 29Ks in 25IP, in-line with his career regular season norms.
Nagging injuries to his leg, back, and lat muscle played a role in diminished velocity that set back deGrom’s 2016 season, a year that ultimately ended with numbness and season-ending ulnar nerve surgery. There were some high points along the way, including an 8-inning shutout in Atlanta in June, and a brilliant one-hit complete game shutout in Philadelphia in July. Still, he finished with a mediocre 7-8 record, and a disappointing, for him, 3.04 ERA, as he gutted and grinded his way through 148 innings in an injury-shortened season.
Jake rebounded in 2017 to put up his first 200 inning season. His dominant repertoire stood out among the hospital ward roster as he pitched the entire season and tallied a whopping 239 strikeouts. His ERA and WHIP were skewed by two particularly ugly consecutive starts in which deGrom gave up 15 earned runs in just 8 innings pitched against Milwaukee and Texas in late May/early June, but after that he went on a tear, giving up no more than one earned run in six out of his next seven starts and being the last man standing at year’s end as the only healthy and effective member of a pitching staff and roster decimated by injuries.
In 2018, deGrom has elevated himself into the inner circle of truly elite pitchers in the game. He currently stands undefeated at 4-0 (but I could legitimately make the case he should be 9-0), overcoming a hyperextended elbow and 10-day DL stint to accumulate a microscopic and league-leading 1.52 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a career best 11.71 K/9.
To put that in perspective, Tom Seaver’s career best Season ERA was 1.76, his best season WHIP was 0.95, and his best season strikeout rate was 9.1 K/9. This is just another way of saying Jacob deGrom is one of the best Mets pitchers of all time and he’s giving us one of the best seasons in Mets history, even if 7 of his great 11 starts have been turned into no-decisions by a faltering bullpen. Looking at it another way, he has a 0.94 ERA in his last eight starts. He’s a rock star! He’s an All-Star. He’s a Superstar!
Let’s make sure to truly appreciate the historic brilliance and exceptional talent of Jacob deGrom, already an all-time Mets great in the midst of a career year at the pinnacle of his performance.
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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Marc Epstein. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.