Last night SNY sat down with Mets legend Dwight Gooden during its broadcast of the Mets-Phillies game. The topic? Gooden’s enthrallingly epic rookie season that took place 30 years ago. On the heels of yet another dominating performance yesterday by powerhouse rookie Jacob deGrom, SNY’s chat with the Doctor underscored how exciting it’s been to watch deGrom pitch lately.
Since the days of the K Korner and, subsequently, Gooden’s much-too-premature decline, Mets fans have been waiting for the next charismatic flame-thrower to sweep us off our feet. Matt Harvey filled that role in 2013 as a sophomore, but his future is, as of last October 22nd, uncertain.
So now we have Mr. deGrom, confident and capable of capturing our attention every fifth day. The lanky right-hander started his rookie season in May, and, despite pitching to a 0–2 record, showed that he belongs in Flushing by sporting an ERA of 2.42. Not only that, but his demeanor was calm and cool–despite the stress of pitching for this year’s feeble Mets’ offense.
After struggling a bit in June (1–2 with a 4.71 ERA), deGrom has thrown himself into the Rookie of the Year discussion by overwhelming his opponents in July. In fact, during his last four starts (dating back to July 8th against the Braves), deGrom has not only been good, he has been Cy Young material.
deGrom’s numbers from July 8th through Sunday’s victory over Milwaukee tell the story:
Jacob deGrom (July 8 - July 27, 2014)
In an attempt to gain a true appreciation of deGrom’s stats over these four games, it is helpful to compare this sample to a similar stretch during Gooden’s rookie season of 1984 (for which he did win the ROY award).
According to The Baseball Almanac, it so happens that Gooden’s last four starts in August of ’84 (starting with an August 11th manhandling of Marvell Wynne and his not-quite-mighty Pirates) were similar to what deGrom has done over the past month:
Dwight Gooden (August 11 - August 27, 1984)
Granted, these numbers are not exactly the same, and an exceptional month does not a season make. But any time a pitcher has, over the course of four consecutive starts, kept both his WHIP and ERA below 1.00 while also maintaining a strikeout ratio at or around 10 K/9, we are witnessing a certain level of dominance that does not happen often.
So what does all this mean for deGrom and his rookie season? Is this stretch of strength a fluke? Or are we witnessing the birth of something special, something that we’ll be discussing in 2044?
But as we watched and listened to Gooden last night on SNY, we remembered what he meant to the Mets back in ’84. And yes, Mets fans, you are allowed to imagine a future in which deGrom (or Harvey, or Wheeler, or Syndergaard—or all of them, for that matter!) blossoms into something similar to what Gooden was.
After all, pitchers do sometimes, somehow, improve on stretches like deGrom’s. Here’s what Gooden did during the last four September starts of his ’84 ROY campaign:
Dwight Gooden (September 7 – September 23, 1984)
And we all know what Doctor K did the NEXT year…