Jacob deGrom has been one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball this year. His 2.03 ERA ranks second among qualified starters. His 26.9 percent strikeout rate is the ninth-best, and his 5.0 percent walk rate is fourteenth-best. If not for Zack Greinke’s incredible season, he might have a shot at winning the National League Cy Young.
Earlier this year, in the middle of May, deGrom’s numbers weren’t nearly as impressive. Through his first seven starts, had had a 3.46 ERA, his strikeout rate was down, and he was allowing home runs at a pretty high clip. In fifteen starts since then, however, he has been spectacular.
In those starts, deGrom has struck out 115 and walked just 16 opposing hitters in 105 innings of work. He has given up five home runs after allowing six home runs in his first seven starts. Oh, and he has a 1.46 ERA in those fifteen starts.
As was the case early in the season, deGrom has thrown all of his pitches harder this year than he did last year.
While not much has changed in terms of his velocity, the results certainly have. In the first six weeks of the season, deGrom’s curveball wasn’t generating swinging strikes nearly as well as it had last year. Since then, it has been a devastating pitch. It was particularly outstanding in July, when opponents swung and missed at nearly half of the curves deGrom threw.
His other pitches haven’t been slouches, either, with the changeup still sitting atop the list for the entire season at a 21.3 percent swinging strike rate. And only his sinker sits below 10 percent on the season.
In terms of pitch usage, deGrom’s mix now looks a lot more similar to what it was last year than it did in mid-May, when he hadn’t been throwing his four-seam or curve very frequently.
With four dominant pitches, all of which he’s throwing very hard, it’s not hard to see why opposing hitters have such a hard time against deGrom this year. Those who doubted what deGrom could do this year coming into the season, or even a few starts into it—myself included on both counts—were wrong.
It would take a blow-up from Greinke and continued dominance from deGrom to turn the tables in the Cy Young race, but the fact that even seems like a remote possibility is high praise. And for a little bit of context on just how good he’s been, deGrom’s 56 ERA-, a metric that contextualizes performance for league and park, is quite a bit better than Matt Harvey’s 64 in 2013 and R.A. Dickey’s 73 in his Cy Young 2012 season.