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Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young season: Start #32

The righty put an exclamation point on his outstanding season in his final start.

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MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Way back on April 10, the Mets held a 3-0 lead heading into the fifth inning. Jacob deGrom was on the mound, pitching well, and facing the bottom of the lineup to start the fifth. With one out, the Marlins picked up three straight hits to get their first run of the inning. Next came a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 3-2.

Next up was Justin Bour. He deposited a ball into the left field stands to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead. deGrom left that game after the sixth with the score tied, and the Mets eventually won the game 8-6.

That fifth inning against the Marlins was the only time deGrom gave up four runs in a game for the entire season. With a better pitch to Bour, deGrom would have gone a full season without allowing more than three runs in a game.

In a season most noted for his consistency, deGrom’s final start against the Braves was be more of the same, but at the same time, it was one of his best. Before the season, the 30-year-old made winning the Cy Young one of his goals for the year. And going into his last start, with the award within reach, deGrom turned to another personal milestone: He was only ten strikeouts away from 1,000 for his career when the game started.

When he exited the game to thunderous applause in the eighth, he had frozen Ozzie Albies with a filthy backdoor slider for his tenth strikeout of the day—his 1,000th for his career.

That strikeout also put him in the history books. He passed David Cone as the fastest pitcher in team history to reach 1,000 strikeouts, needing just 897.2 innings to reach that mark.

The night might have ended on a high note, but it did not get off to an ideal start. deGrom shockingly demonstrated a lack of control when threw a pitch that sailed to the backstop to the first batter of the game, Ronald Acuna. It did not get much better from there when Acuna proceeded to single and steal second with nobody out.

From there, deGrom settled in and went to work. Only two other batters reached base. One was erased by a double play, and the other was Acuna again. He reached on a strikeout and was called out when Jeff McNeil threw behind him to get him at first.

deGrom once again used his full arsenal and had all his pitches working. Both his two-seam and four-seam fastball were particularly effective to go along with a wicked slider that put batters away.

When the strikeouts started to pile up, the buzz in the crowd elevated to a point that made the Braves commentators remark that it felt like the old rivalry days of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. In a lost season, deGrom was able to bring the Citi Field crowd to its feet inspiring chants of “M-V-P” and “we want Jake” when Jay Bruce came out on deck to pinch hit for him. With not much else to cheer about this season, the righty remained one of the few bright spots of the year, and he deserved every bit adulation from the home crowd.

Despite the pleas from the crowd, deGrom was done after eight innings. He gave up only two hits and didn’t allow any walks or runs. With some run support from Dominic Smith and Michael Conforto, he raised his record to 10-9 and lowered his ERA to 1.70, the second-lowest mark in team history. The man with the lowest mark weighed in with his thoughts after the game.

The start became deGrom’s twenty-ninth consecutive game of allowing three runs or fewer, which tied Jake Arrieta’s major league record that was set over the course of two seasons, and it was deGrom’s twenty-fourth consecutive quality start, which is a major league record for a single season.

Tim Britton of the Athletic did a fascinating deep dive into some of the numbers the presumptive Cy Young Winner put up this season, but on top of putting up one of the best seasons in Mets history, deGrom had one of the best seasons in major league history.

After stumbling a bit in September, both Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer finished off their seasons strong. Nola faced the Braves twice and lowered his ERA to 2.37 to end his outstanding season.

Scherzer wasn’t going away without a fight, either. He dominated the Marlins for seven innings and struck out ten batters, which gave him 300 strikeouts for the season. He was shut down and ended up not pitching against the Rockies on the final day of the season, so he finished the year with a 2.53 ERA.

deGrom finished second behind Scherzer in innings pitched, which is remarkable considering he missed one start and was pulled early from two other starts this season. That mark is another testament to his consistency—that he was able to pitch deep into games to the point that missing a start ended up not even mattering in the grand scheme of things.

deGrom vs. the NL Cy Young Field

Jacob deGrom 217 1.7 269 46 0.912 10.1 8.8 1.91 11.16 0.41 1.99 216
Max Scherzer 220.2 2.53 300 51 0.911 9.5 7.2 2.08 12.24 0.94 2.66 168
Aaron Nola 212.1 2.37 224 58 0.975 10 5.6 2.46 9.49 0.72 3.01 171

All of those numbers look incredible, so let’s see how these three match up against each other and the rest of the league.

NL Rankings of Cy Young Candidates

Jacob deGrom 2nd 1st 2nd 5th 2nd 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 1st 1st 1st
Max Scherzer 1st 3rd 1st 11th 1st 3rd 2nd 6th 1st 12th 3rd 3rd
Aaron Nola 3rd 2nd 4th 18th 3rd 2nd 4th 9th 8th 5th 4th 2nd

Out of these categories, Jacob deGrom was first in the league in six of them and led the other candidates in two other categories. He was also the only one to remain in the top ten in every single category. The only stats he did not have the advantage in were innings pitched, strikeouts, K/9, and WHIP, which was separated by one one-thousandth of a point.

So how did batters fare against this dominant trio? The answer, obviously, is not very well.

Batters Against the NL Cy Young Field

Pitcher AVG OBP SLG OPS RISP Soft Contact %
Pitcher AVG OBP SLG OPS RISP Soft Contact %
Jacob deGrom 0.196 0.244 0.277 0.521 0.142 25.20%
Max Scherzer 0.188 0.247 0.332 0.58 0.153 23.90%
Aaron Nola 0.197 0.259 0.311 0.57 0.129 22.30%

While each pitcher had a least one category that they led in, deGrom once again led in the majority of categories.

NL Rankings of Batters Against NL Cy Young Field

Pitcher AVG OBP SLG OPS RISP Soft Contact %
Pitcher AVG OBP SLG OPS RISP Soft Contact %
Jacob deGrom 4th 1st 1st 1st 2nd 1st
Max Scherzer 1st 2nd 5th 3rd 3rd 2nd
Aaron Nola 5th 3rd 2nd 2nd 1st 5th

While there are probably some other stats that have either Nola or Scherzer in the lead, deGrom leads in the majority of categories. He especially blew away the field in ERA, ERA+, FIP, HR/9, fWAR, and SLG. The others put up incredible numbers and by all accounts had dominant seasons, but deGrom stands out as the best among them.

There is the argument, of course, that deGrom’s team was out of it and his starts didn’t mean as much. The games did mean something to his opponents, though.

deGrom also had to deal with an insane amount of high-stress innings. According to Tim Britton, the Mets’ ace pitched about 90 percent of the time with game within a margin of two runs.

Taking into account his entire body of work and what he has accomplished this season outside of wins, deGrom should be the 2018 National League Cy Young winner. Compared with the other Cy Young winners in Mets history, deGrom’s innings pitched total is a bit low, but that should not take away from the incredible numbers he put up in what should be remembered as one of the best seasons in team history.

deGrom vs. Mets History

Pitcher (Year) IP ERA K BB
Pitcher (Year) IP ERA K BB
Jacob deGrom (2018) 217 1.7 269 46
R.A. Dickey (2012) 233.2 2.73 230 54
Dwight Gooden (1985) 276.2 1.53 268 69
Tom Seaver (1973) 290 2.08 251 64

The 2018 season will probably be remembered as a rollercoaster. From the incredibly hot start to the maddening June swoon, topped off with an emotional final week, one man remained a rare constant. Despite all the frustration, deGrom never wavered. What a privilege it has been to witness an outstanding individual performance and an incredible competitor.