When the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole all the way back in December, a time that feels like it was millennia ago, it opened up a debate as to who the best starter in New York is. Jacob deGrom has held that title for at least two full seasons without dispute, but now it was more of a question with Cole on the Yankees. Stirring the pot between Mets and Yankees fans is a time-honored tradition, and no time was wasted in sparking this debate:
deGrom or Cole: Who is the ace of New York? pic.twitter.com/c1ElKw62v3— MLB (@MLB) December 18, 2019
This, of course, has led to a firestorm of tweets debating the topic, headed by none other our own Richard Staff, who you should follow.
I can’t believe Gerrit Cole brought the sign to the press conference! pic.twitter.com/rtNDICoh7N— Richard Staff (@Staff7998) December 18, 2019
Even I got in on the act recently as well:
When someone says Gerrit Cole is better than Jacob deGrom pic.twitter.com/OTppSfU9H0— Dave C. (rich’s friend ) (@davecap96) April 19, 2020
And so, the debates were on. Of course, the actual numbers over the last two years come out comfortably in favor of deGrom, but that is apparently not enough for everyone to come to an agreement. So now it’s time to settle this debate once and for all, and there’s really only one way to do it: create one team of 26 Jacob deGroms, one team of 26 Gerrit Coles, and have them face off in a game of MLB: The Show to determine who the better pitcher really is.
In these baseball-less times, doing weird simulations in MLB: The Show has become much more of the norm for people around the internet. I, of course, have been on this beat for years. I pretty much consider myself a seasoned veteran at silly video game chicanery.
Creating the clones for these simulations is always the most time-consuming part of this crap. For this one, I have to create two new clones—a hitter and a pitcher—of both deGrom and Cole with the exact same attributes as the game-issued versions, try to get their appearances down pat, export the player files, and import them over all of the players on each team’s current rosters with the exception of deGrom and Cole themselves. Sometimes, I take shortcuts. This usually happens in the “creating the appearance” stage.
Please meet Clone deGrom. He couldn’t look less like the real Jacob, but in my defense, making someone that ungodly handsome just is not an easy task and I refuse to spend more than five minutes trying.
When creating a player, the game offers several hundred pre-recorded audio names that Matt Vasgersian can address the player by. You can choose the first and last names of nearly every active MLB player or prospect, along with the names of several legends, random former players, and some funny nicknames. This was where I was met with a jarring discovery when creating the deGrom clone:
There is no deGrom. It’s just...not there. They have the last names of countless random players, including former Reds infielder and 2019 Long Island Duck Ivan De Jesus, Phillies pitcher Enyel De Los Santos, former journeyman infielder Blake DeWitt, 2005 Mets reliever Mike DeJean, and Old Friend Alejandro De Aza. But you cannot select the last name of Jacob deGrom, an active pitcher who also happens to be a two-time Cy Young award winner and has even appeared in commercials for this very video game franchise.
So Jacob De Grand it is, then.
In terms of where this game will be held, we have four potential Mets or Yankees venues to choose from: Old Yankee Stadium, New Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and Citi Field. As much as I wanted to go to good ol’ Shea for this one, I decided it would only be fair to pick as neutral of a field for this game as possible, though I still wanted it to represent New York in some way. Which sets it up perfectly for my favorite stadium in the history of baseball:
Both the Mets and the Yankees played in Polo Grounds at certain points in their history, so this place is perfect for this game. Once located in Washington Heights, Polo Grounds was the dumbest stadium in the history of baseball, so what better place for us to mess around in?
If you are somehow unaware of this park’s ludicrous dimensions, they’re really something. It’s 279 feet down the left field line, only 258(!) down the line in right, 450 feet in the gaps, and 483 feet to dead center with a 60-foot high wall to clear. Liners in the gaps are usually inside-the-park homers. A literal pop-up down the line is a homer. You can hit a 475-foot fly out to center. The stairs to get to the clubhouse in center field are in play, as are the glass windows on the clubhouse. Yes, there are technically breakable glass windows in play. By rule, hitting a ball through the windows is a ground rule double. The bullpens are not only on the field, they are IN FAIR TERRITORY. I love this stadium so much, and it’s the standard Dumb Shit Nonsense place to go for max stupidity in a video game.
So we travel back in time to Polo Grounds, where the team of deGroms will face the team of Coles in what promises to be a low-scoring affair, with a side of Polo Grounds dumb shittery to boot.
Here are the lineups for this game:
It goes without saying, but the real, non-clone versions of both pitchers will be starting the game for their respective sides. The hitting deGroms are an overall 46. The Cole hitters are a 24 overall. deGrom, the pitcher, is one of the few players in the game to receive a 99 overall rating, whereas Cole’s pitching overall is a 93. deGrom is the clear favorite here in every aspect, but we still need to play the game.
The deGroms, being the home team, take the field first with the Coles hitting first. The first Cole batter leads off with a single, and a passed ball gets him to second.
I realized very early on that passed balls were going to be a frequent occurrence in this affair. When you put pitchers in the field in this game, they have low “reaction” attributes. And when a player has low reaction times in this game, they aren’t just slow, they are laughably slow, and struggle with catching baseballs or really functioning as humans. So when you put these players at catcher, some really bad baseball occurs:
They’re not even closing their gloves! This is bad. These guys are like if Wilson Ramos took too many muscle relaxers. Picture the worst little league catcher you’ve ever seen—like that kid that usually just gets stuck in right field, you know? But the usual catcher had lacrosse practice today and the backup catcher’s mom wouldn’t let him play because had too much homework to do, so now we’re stuck with the Kid Who Wears Jeans To Practice behind the plate—only this time we have the one of the most spacious backstops in the history of the sport. It’s not what you want.
Regardless, deGrom gets the next two hitters out, but a two-out error by the third baseman prolonged the inning and allowed runners to first and third. This opens the door for the next Cole to come through with an RBI single up the middle to give the Coles a 1-0 lead. Another passed ball gets runners to second and third, but deGrom punches out the next batter to get out of the jam.
It’s tough to know how much scoring this game is actually going to have, so deGrom being down 1-0 so early looks troubling.
The deGroms come to bat for the first time, and after a strikeout to start things off, 2B deGrom got on with a walk, setting it up for 1B deGrom. What followed was something I genuinely wasn’t expecting to see at all in this game, and frankly shocked me when it happened.
That was a BOMB. And it wasn’t even a cheapie Polo Grounds dinger! That was 427 feet.
That’s not all for the inning, either. The next batter was hit by a pitch, and two batters later, RF deGrom singled him to third. Runners were now at first and third with two outs, and that’s when catcher deGrom came through with an RBI single to make it 3-1.
I am amazed. Here I thought this could be a game that goes 18 innings scoreless, but it’s already 3-1 after one inning! What’s going on here? Cole is laboring on the mound, and not giving up soft contact, either. He gets out of the first inning after that, but not before throwing 34 pitches in the frame.
Both pitchers bare down from there, though, and all the fun the offenses had in the first inning immediately halts. The game begins to look more like I expected it to. Both pitchers strike out the side in the second inning, and the punch-outs (unsurprisingly) really start piling up for both pitchers over the next few innings. The offenses can only scratch out one more hit apiece until the fifth inning. And this, friends, is when things get weird.
deGrom allows a walk to the first Cole to face him in the top of the fifth. A passed ball gets him to second, and later in the inning this E4 sets up first and third with one out:
If you are disappointed in the team defense right now, reader, prepare to be livid in a few seconds.
With runners on first and third, this untimely passed ball allowed a run to score:
Oh, but we are still just getting started. The deGrom’s lead is now cut to 3-2 with the tying run at second. deGrom struck out the next hitter for the second out, but another passed ball allows the runner to get to third. All deGrom needs is one more out to preserve the lead, but catcher deGrom just has an absolute mental breakdown:
I don’t...why did he throw it? Why was it so inaccurate? He’s a pitcher! He should at least be able to throw accurately if nothing else! I don’t get it. The error allows the tying run to score, and it’s 3-3.
Thankfully, that was the end of—oh no, sorry, another error:
deGrom struck out the next batter to actually, this time, for real, end the inning. To recap, deGrom struck out three batters in the inning, allowed only one walk, and somehow two runs scored. He recorded what should have been six outs in the inning. Of course, deGrom’s teammates ruining his starts is not an unfamiliar experience for him, but this time he has nobody to blame but himself.
Then we turn to the bottom half of the fifth, and things stayed wacky. The first deGrom of the inning struck out, but reached on a dropped third strike. Two straight passed balls got him to third, and then catcher Cole did something that looked, uh, familiar?
He did it too! I can’t believe it. Why are they so dumb? Anyway, the deGroms took a 4-3 lead back on that play. The next batter was 1B deGrom, whom you may remember hit the homer before. This time, he hit it a fly ball to left field. Here’s how LF Cole tried to field it:
It wound up a triple.
The next batter delivered a sacrifice fly, scoring the run from third to make it 5-3 in favor of deGrom. Cole got through the inning, but finished his day at 112 pitches through just five innings. He allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits, with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
deGrom easily navigated through the sixth, and that also completed his work for the day. He tossed six innings, allowed only three hits, three runs (none earned), two walks and a 14 strikeouts.
Let’s take a break from the action now to talk more about the defense. I have mentioned that it was bad (it was really bad), and often times things like this happened:
However, it wasn’t all bad. Check out these sparklers by 3B deGrom:
The first baseman didn’t back him up on either of those, of course, but look at the athleticism! That’s deGrom’s shortstop experience at Stetson University coming through there. 3B Cole tried to get in on the act too, but he just wasn’t good enough:
Maybe he should have played shortstop at UCLA.
Anyway, back to the game. Now in their bullpens, neither pitching staff budges. One reliever Cole comes on in the sixth, and he handles the deGroms fairly easily. In fact, he stays on for the seventh and the eighth, and doesn’t allow anymore scoring by the deGroms. Eight out of the nine outs he recorded are via strikeout. His only blemish is a double in the seventh inning by 1B deGrom, who’s now 3-for-4 and a single away from the cycle. Unfortunately, he does not get a chance to bat again. We’ll never know if he could’ve gotten that single.
The deGroms, however, go with the much more traditional “one guy for each inning” approach to their bullpen. Both deGroms that are brought in for the seventh and eight innings strike out the side.
We head to the 9th with the score still 5-3 deGroms. A “closer” deGrom comes in for the save. This is the Cole’s last chance to come back. A strikeout of the first Cole is the 8th consecutive strikeout by deGrom pitchers. Unfortunately, the next hitter grounded out to end that streak, but now the Coles were down to their final out. CF Cole is the last man standing in deGrom’s way from immortality:
And the ballgame is over! And with that, Jacob deGrom can officially be labeled the best pitcher in New York. Here’s the final box score:
Yes, that’s six(!) errors by the Mets to only two for the Yankees. Three of those errors were by 1B deGrom, who had quite an adventurous day out there.
The deGroms had a total of eight passed balls. The Coles had five. That comes to a total of 13 passed balls between both sides, and that does not count the ones that were ruled wild pitches. The actual combined number is probably closer to 20.
As for strikeout totals, the deGroms had a total of 21 in the game, while the Coles had 20. Yet another category where the deGroms outclassed the Coles.
With deGrom already having the better real life stats and two more Cy Young awards than Cole, this victory has makes it him the undisputed best pitcher in New York. The arguments can end now. We have a clear winner, which means there’s only one thing we can say: