Jacob deGrom wanted his 1,000th career strikeout to happen this year. He did not want to wait until opening day 2019 to get it. So he took the mound in the eighth inning of his final start of the 2018 season against the NL East champion Atlanta Braves with 998 career strikeouts. It didn’t matter that his pitch count was at about 100, 100 wasn’t the key number.
So after one-out, he struck out Tyler Flowers before Ozzie Albies stepped to the plate. The count went to 3-2 before catcher Devin Mesoraco called for a backdoor slider. The pitch froze Albies and he was called out on strikes. de Grom smiled as he left the field and Mesoraco would say later, “that one was a lot of fun”. Fun indeed–mission accomplished.
That strikeout was his last out of an eight-inning shut-out he pitched against the Braves. It capped a historic season for deGrom that was so masterful that many pitching records had to be rewritten or revised. He was named a finalist for the 2019 Cy Young award that will be announced on Wednesday, November 14. The other finalists are Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jacob deGrom’s 2018 statistics are known, by now, to even the most casual of Mets fan. He led the majors with a 1.70 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 216 ERA+ and HR/9 of .4. He tied for first in the NL in WHIP (0.91) and WAR (10). His ERA was 2/3 of a run better than Nola’s who finished second in the league with a 2.37 ERA. He struck out 269 batters in 217 innings and walked only 46. DeGrom, the 2014 Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star, even had an 11-game stretch (from April 27 to June 18) where he allowed no more than one earned run in any start. When one studies his stats against history, the rarity and true excellence of his season are revealed.
- Jacob deGrom is one of only six pitchers since 1933 to have thrown 215 innings with a 1.70 ERA or better and deGrom’s 269 strikeouts represent the highest number on the list.
- His 1.70 ERA in 217 innings pitched was just the tenth instance since 1920 of a pitcher posting a 1.70 ERA or lower while throwing 200 innings.
- He is the only pitcher in MLB history to have a sub-2.00 ERA with at least 260 strikeouts, fewer than 50 walks and allowing ten home runs or less.
- It what might be his most significant achievement, deGrom allowed three or fewer runs in 29 straight starts–a record.
- He set a single-season record with 24 consecutive quality starts.
- If (or should we say when) he wins the Cy Young award, there will only be four Cy Young winners with a better ERA than deGrom’s: Bob Gibson (1.12), Dwight Gooden (1.53), Greg Maddux (1.56 and 1.63), and Dean Chance (1.65).
- He is the fastest Met pitcher to achieve 1000 strikeouts doing so in 897.2 innings surpassing even Dwight Gooden who needed over 1000 innings to get to that mark
Some have called his season one of the best single-season pitching performances in MLB history. Unfortunately, through all this excellence, his record was only 10-9. This was due in large part to lack of run support and some blown saves by the bullpen. As far as poor run support, deGrom pitched 21 games in 2018 allowing one or fewer runs. His record in those games was 9-2 with ten no-decisions. If the Mets would have scored three runs per game or more, he would have easily been a 20-game winner. But the 10-9 record is more reflective of the team in this case and not deGrom who was excellent from start to finish.
On Wednesday, the announcement will be made as to the winner of the 2018 Cy Young awards. In the NL, deGrom is favored to win but stranger things have happened when the Baseball Writer’s vote. It should be a slam dunk with a near-unanimous winner in Jacob deGrom, He would join Tom Seaver (who won the award three times), Dwight Gooden and R.A. Dickey as New York Mets who have won the honor. Others may have had better records, but none have been more deserving than Jacob deGrom. His 2018 was superb.