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Jacob deGrom’s stellar season: Start #31

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It was another history-making start for the righty.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The only downside to Jacob deGrom’s 2018 season has been the lack of support from the team around him. Too often he has been the captain of a sinking ship, having to simultaneously steer and bail while everyone else wonders why their feet are wet. That all changed when the Mets had to face both of his closest competitors in the same week.

First up was Aaron Nola and the Phillies. The Phillies ultimately got the win, but Steven Matz took Nola deep and the Phillies’ ace failed to get out of the sixth which prevented him from getting a quality start. His ERA rose a bit to 2.44, and after the game Matz was very happy he was able to support his friend in his quest for the Cy Young.

Next up was going to be an even harder test for the Mets when Jason Vargas went up against Max Scherzer in our nation’s capitol. As good as Scherzer has been all season, he has been bitten by the long ball, and it showed against the Mets. Michael Conforto has handled Scherzer pretty well in his career, and he put the Mets on the board with a two-run opposite field shot. Jay Bruce followed to make it back-to-back home runs, and Scherzer’s ERA was on the rise. Outside of those two shots, Scherzer was still dominant and struck out thirteen batters. The Nationals’ offense got him off the hook for the loss, but the Mets did eke out the win in extra innings. The outing prevented Scherzer from being able to win 20 games for the year.

This game was pretty much a microcosm of Scherzer’s season. He can be absolutely dominant but prone to mistakes that leave the yard. This explains both his 2.57 ERA and his quest for a 300-strikeout season.

Finally it was deGrom’s turn to start. It started off well since he had a 1-0 lead before he took the mound. The first inning looked like typical deGrom. He picked up two strikeouts and blew away Bryce Harper on a filthy 99-mph fastball.

He then stumbled a bit the next inning when he issued a leadoff walk to Anthony Rendon. deGrom had trouble locating the strike zone, and Juan Soto took advantage. He laced a single to right to set up first and third with nobody out. Ryan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, but the presumptive Cy Young winner settled in from there.

Perhaps it helped that he was handed the lead the next inning. The offense came through with three runs, and deGrom entered cruise control. He ended the second with a pickoff of Soto and allowed only two baserunners for the rest of the outing. None made it past first base. He picked up another eight strikeouts and is only ten away from 1,000 for his career. He even got the win to bring his record to 9-9 for the season.

This was deGrom’s twenty-third consecutive quality start, which is a new major league record. It was also his twenty-eighth straight start of allowing three runs or fewer which is one shy of Jake Arrieta’s mark, which was done over the course of two seasons.

Despite the history the ace has already made he still has yet another shot to enter the history books.

As Ron Darling noted after the game, the Cy Young is wrapped up. Working in deGrom’s favor is his strong finish to the season. Just like a beautiful gymnastics routine, Cy Young contenders need to stick the landing since that is the last impression the judges will have of their performance. deGrom has stuck the landing. For this final month of the season, he owns a 2.33 ERA and has struck out 35 batters in 27 innings. His opponents were the Dodgers, Marlins, Red Sox, and Nationals.

The same could not be said about Nola and Scherzer. Nola is sporting a 5.01 ERA for the month of September and has 33 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. He faced the Cubs and both the Mets and Nationals twice this month. Scherzer has a 5.00 ERA, but he struck out 41 batters in 27 innings for September. He faced the Cardinals, Cubs, Braves, and Mets ,but the most damage came against Atlanta when he gave up six runs in four innings.

With his competitors struggling, deGrom has made huge strides in the categories he was not already leading. He now leads in bWAR in addition to fWAR, HR/9, BB/9, FIP, ERA+, OPS, SLG, and RISP. deGrom still has yet to surrender a hit with the bases loaded this season, and the only run came on a sacrifice fly. Scherzer leads in innings pitched, strikeouts, K/9, WHIP, and AVG, but the two are tied in innings per start.

deGrom vs. the NL Cy Young Field

Pitcher IP ERA K BB WHIP bWAR K/9 HR/9 FIP ERA+ AVG OPS
Pitcher IP ERA K BB WHIP bWAR K/9 HR/9 FIP ERA+ AVG OPS
Jacob deGrom 209 1.77 259 46 0.938 9.5 11.15 0.43 2.03 209 0.2 0.533
Max Scherzer 213.2 2.57 290 51 0.917 9.2 12.22 0.97 2.71 165 0.188 0.583
Aaron Nola 199.1 2.44 210 53 0.983 9.1 9.48 0.72 2.98 171 0.201 0.574

So far this season, deGrom has earned praise not just from the media but from a few of his peers. Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale were both praiseworthy of him. and now Tom Koehler shared his thoughts as well.

The Cy Young seems like it is deGrom’s to lose at this point, but his MVP consideration is getting more attention. He is still a long shot to win that award, but for all intents and purposes he has been the best player in the National League this season.

The lowest deGrom’s ERA can shrink this season is to 1.69, so Dwight Gooden’s minuscule mark of 1.53 set in 1985 is safe in Mets’ history for at least another season.

deGrom vs. Mets History

Pitcher (Year) IP ERA K BB
Pitcher (Year) IP ERA K BB
Jacob deGrom (2018) 209 1.77 259 46
R.A. Dickey (2012) 220 2.66 209 52
Dwight Gooden (1985) 241.2 1.68 236 59
Tom Seaver (1973) 259 1.74 225 47

Jacob deGrom has one start left, possibly two if the Mets start him on short rest for the final game—which seems unlikely. His final start will come against Atlanta at home, and no matter the result, it should be the capper on one of the greatest seasons in Mets history.