Jacob deGrom the Cy Young? Sounds sweet to Mets fans in a lost season. Unfortunately, the numbers simply aren’t going to stand out above the competition to make it a reality. Remember, narratives rule the voting and the Mets ace has not even one in his column.
Degrom is probably my favorite pitcher on the staff. He’s the gamer that all the young starters should aspire to be. We used to think Matt Harvey was that tough bedrock of the rotation, but injuries tested his mental toughness in a way that showed the soft underbelly of what Harvey really is. He’s gone but remaining is the real “dark knight” without the silly moniker. deGrom reminds me of young David Cone, but with the moxie and poise of the later year Yankees version.
After Saturday’s 3-1 carving of the Phillies deGrom entered Sunday’s play with an 8-7 record and a 1.71 ERA. Both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs have dominating peripherals (FIP, xFIP, K-Rate, BB/K Rate, etc.) that put him at the top or near the top of all of baseball. The problem with winning the Cy Young is that you are dealing with voters and the human element. That will ensure that deGrom will lose to Max Scherzer or Aaron Nola at the end of the season.
Forget traditional writers vs. new age. Voting for awards will never be 100% based on facts and logic. Have you ever seen an election in this country won straight on facts? Human beings base their decisions on emotions. Narratives often takeover even in the face of cold hard facts. Historically the BBWAA writers have emulated this anytime the facts have been presented.
Want proof? Look at the 1988 MVP award? Yes, the Dodgers were led to a championship by Kirk Gibson, but none of the votes happened after that Saturday night home run was hit off Dennis Eckersley. Darryl Strawberry was the clear MVP. You could make a case for Kevin McReynolds, as well. Now today’s advanced metrics make that Gibson decision more palatable with Wins Above Replacement. None of the sports writers had that at their disposal in 1988. It was home runs, avg, and RBI. Plus, Strawberry was on the most popular team and was the most marketable type of player. Gibson, however, won them over with his fire, grit and probably the help of Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak. Without the Dodgers staying in the public eye so late into the season due to Hershiser a nondescript roster would never have garnered much attention. Tommy Lasorda’s proverbial media blowhorn probably didn’t hurt.
Want something more appropriate to deGrom? Look at the 1987 Cy-Young Award race. Steve Bedrosian and his 40 saves won it. Yes, a reliever that was nowhere near Trevor Hoffman, much less Eckersley or Rivera, garnered the award. Why? He converted to a reliever a couple of years earlier and a so-so starter become a star at another position was a great story. Add in the fact the save/closer was a new fad and the media ate it up. Nolan Ryan had a similar bad-luck season to deGrom (8-16, 2.76 ERA and 270 K’s led the league) and didn’t garner a single first-place vote. Other individuals like the aforementioned Hershiser, Bob Welch, teammate Mike Scott and even the Mets own Doc Gooden were more deserving.
I can cite a bunch of other examples of where the narrative drives the decision of an award. DeGrom’s numbers are dominant, but are any dominant vs. Scherzer or Nola? Despite Mickey Callaway’s claims yesterday the answer is no. DeGrom – depending on the site – may be ahead in all the non-win statistics but not by an extreme margin. That is why his pedestrian .500 record will probably hurt him in the end. Yes, despite the disciples of advanced metrics starting to influence the media, it probably will come down to good old wins, losses and team performance.
If Nola pitches big down the stretch and the Phillies win the division that will work against deGrom. Scherzer continuing to pile up the wins and end up a plus-15 or greater will also work against him. deGrom has not a single narrative to help him win this award. No pennant race, history of dominance or historic streak. Tell me what will change in those categories between now and the end of the regular season?
What is left is enjoying a historic Mets pitching season during the remaining lost days of a disappointing year. I hate the narrative of “this team reminds me of the 70s Mets,” but 2018 really does fit into that category. Now you know how your Baby Boomer family members and friends felt rooting for the team during those years. Watch Seaver and enjoy being king once every five days. Fortunately, this team has more talent than those drab counterparts and can bring sunshine soon.
The real debate the rest of the season isn’t whether deGrom will win the Cy Young, but how this season compares versus the great Seaver years and the best Mets pitching performance of all time: 1985 Dwight Gooden
This is my first column in about 5 years. It’s nice to be back and I think this once-a-week scenario will help promote the podcast and give more exposure to my style in covering this team.
The last portion of every column will be my “high heat” parting shot. Something on my mind that I will quickly throw out there to give the reader some mental bubble gum.
Today it’s about pushing starters. On Friday I saw criticism of Mickey Callaway regarding the fact he let Noah Syndergaard reach 115 pitches. The outrage ranged from the junior pitching coaches, pitch count police types and the usual narrative of “it’s a lost season why push him.” The soft mindset displayed by media, fans and bloggers is exhausting.
Yesterday, everyone thought deGrom was done after his 8th inning strikeout of Rhys Hoskins. The pitch count police were ready to close the book. But no! Callaway did the right thing and pushed deGrom to finish what he started.
Great pitchers – like Max Scherzer – go deep into games because they were pushed and demanded to do so. If deGrom wants to be great – and it appears he has that moxie – he will demand the ball and finish what he started more times than not.
There is no reason why 115-120 pitches can’t be accomplished. Of course, you must take into account other factors as far as stressful pitches, score, situation, etc. But by and large, there is no reason why either of these top-of-the-rotation types can’t pitch longer than 90-100 pitches.
deGrom is showing that he can be great. Great pitchers go deep into games and show the ability to get to 120 pitches. They don’t challenge Mr. Met on Twitter and focus on their silly cartoon moniker.
Callaway should be commended for pushing Syndergaard and deGrom. If I were both I would get used to that and demand it.
That is what great pitchers do.