Three Mets pitchers have won Cy Young awards since the team’s inaugural 1962 season: Tom Seaver three times (1969, 1973, 1975), Dwight Gooden in 1985, and R.A. Dickey in 2012. Jacob deGrom was one of, if not the, best pitchers in baseball in the first half of this season, and is on the shortlist for National League Cy Young contenders at the All-Star Break. How does deGrom’s first half stack up to prior Met Cy Young winners at the mid-point of the season? Let’s dig in.
Tom Seaver needs little introduction to even the most casual of Mets fan. Seaver brought respectability and winning to a franchise which had not experienced it before his arrival in 1967. The 12 time all-star won 3 Cy Young awards and finished second twice. Interestingly, his best first half performance was in 1971, a year he finished second in Cy Young balloting to the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins. His best pre-All-Star game performance in a year he did win the award was in 1973. Seaver was 11-3 at the break with a 2.05 ERA, 123 strikeouts and only 35 walks allowed in 144.2 IP. He would finish the season 19-10, leading the league in strikeouts (251), complete games (18), WHIP (0.976), and ERA (2.08).
Dwight Gooden’s 1985 season was one of the best seasons ever by a major league pitcher, especially for one as young as he was. As a 20-year old in only his second major league season, Gooden won the triple crown of pitching, leading the league in ERA (1.53), strikeouts (268) and wins (24). The four time all-star would be a unanimous choice for NL Cy Young award, garnering all 24 first place votes.
At the all-star break in 1985, Gooden had made 20 starts and had a record of 13-3. He had a 1.68 ERA and 153 strikeouts. He did not pitch in the All-Star game that year, as he had pitched two days prior, shutting out the Houston Astros, 1-0. He would complete the year 24-4 and become the youngest player ever to win 20 games.
R.A. Dickey is the most recent Met Cy Young winner, taking it home in 2012. Dickey’s story was exceptional, going from a failed prospect (partly due to his lack of an ulnar collateral ligament) to first Met cut in spring training in 2010 to dominant ace in 2012. Mets manager Terry Collins remarked, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.” His ability to control his knuckleball was incredible, and he ended 2012 with a 20-6 record and the franchise’s fifth Cy Young trophy.
At the break, Dickey was 9-1 with a 2.66 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 125 innings of work. He set a Mets franchise record with 32 2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings besting Jerry Koosman’s mark from 1973 of 31 2⁄3 scoreless. He also had a pair of one-hit shutouts in the first half. Dickey pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star game in Kansas City as the National League won 8-0.
Jacob deGrom, as of this writing, leads baseball with a 1.68 ERA which ties Gooden for the lowest ever for a Met first half. He has allowed three or fewer runs in 16 consecutive starts which is the second longest streak of its type behind Gooden’s 24. deGrom’s 6.0 WAR also leads the National League. The potential problem among voters could be his win/loss record which stands at 5-4. He has had 10 no decisions in his last 17 starts including Wednesday’s no decision after a dazzling eight innings of scoreless ball against the Phillies. Record aside, deGrom’s first half stats clearly match up nicely with those of previous Mets Cy Young winners. He has been exceptional.
Since 1967, the starting pitcher with the fewest wins to be awarded the Cy Young was Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, with a record of 13-7. Hopefully, the Mets can score enough runs in deGrom’s second half starts to vault him over that total. If he pitches in the second half anywhere like he did in the first, he would be a deserving winner and have a season that statistically ranks among the Mets’ best ever.