Why Jacob deGrom Is Officially the New York Mets' Ace
The New York Mets have a pretty stacked starting rotation. Despite their total and complete inability to hit the baseball, they've managed to stay in the National League East hunt (44-42, just three games behind the Washington Nationals after Wednesday's games) thanks mainly to their top four arms: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard.
And while Harvey has gotten most of the press over the last year and a half, a closer inspection of the numbers reveals this truth.
Jacob deGrom is the ace of the New York Mets.
He was almost unhittable against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, going eight innings and giving up no runs on two hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts. Those 10 strikeouts put him in some elite company.
Jacob deGrom: 4th-most K through a Mets' starter's 1st 250 innings in team history (Elias) Top 3: Dwight Gooden, Matt Harvey, Nolan Ryan— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 8, 2015
And what was perhaps even more impressive is how he maintained his effectiveness even into the later innings.
deGrom post game data: avg FB velo by pitch count: 1-15: 95 mph 16-30: 96 31-45: 95 46-60: 95 61-75: 96 76-90: 95 91+: 95— Timothy Finnegan (@TimFinn521) July 8, 2015
According to Fangraphs, deGrom's fastball averaged 93.5 miles per hour last year (courtesy of Pitchf/x), while this year it's up to 94.6 miles per hour. That fastball has made his other pitches that much better, and he's become a true strikeout pitcher, something he never really was in the minor leagues.
In four minor league seasons, deGrom's strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) was 7.4, and it was 6.8 in his final seven starts at Triple-A last year before being called up. But coming into Wednesday's game against the Giants, in 38 Major League starts, it was exactly 9.00 K/9, a strikeout per inning on the nose. And while deGrom has never been one to walk a lot of batters (2.3 walks per nine in his minor league career), he's managed to cut down on his free passes even more this year (1.70). Last year, he walked 2.76 per nine innings.
If you still don't agree that deGrom is the best pitcher the Mets have right now, compare his 2015 numbers to Harvey. They tell the story.
Now, Harvey's season has been a bit on the disappointing side, although he's mostly been very good. But deGrom has been even better and is emerging as one of the best starters in the National League.
Barring a second half collapse, Washington's Max Scherzer is going to be the unanimous choice as the National League's Cy Young Award winner, and in a year without Bryce Harper's production, Scherzer would be in the conversation for MVP, too. But deGrom is certainly in the running as one of the five best pitchers in the NL.
What makes deGrom's story amazing is no one saw this coming. When New York called him up last year, he was seen as a nice pitcher who was having a good season at Triple-A, with a 2.58 ERA in seven starts. But he was not seen as a potential ace, or even an All-Star. His career minor league ERA was 3.62, with decent but not spectacular peripherals. Baseball America ranked him as the organization's 10th-best prospect heading into 2014, when he would eventually make the Mets starting rotation and win the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Before the 2014 season, his fastball reportedly hovered in the 91 to 94 miles per hour range, and there were questions as to whether his secondary pitches, specifically his slider and curveball, were even good enough to make him a starter. Some saw him as a relief pitcher, and those who did see him in the rotation had him pinned as a potential number-four starter.
deGrom has come a long way in a year and a half and is now the ace of one of the five best starting staffs in all of baseball.