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Is Jacob deGrom a Hall of Famer?

Is Jacob deGrom a Hall of Famer

The New York Mets have one of the most storied backlogs of pitchers in baseball history. Yet, despite how many greats have been through Queens during their career, only Tom Seaver has entered the Hall of Fame in a Mets cap. Now, almost 30 years since Seaver was enshrined in Cooperstown, another generational Mets pitcher is trying to do same. The best pitcher in the game today, Jacob deGrom has been on another level for years. However, as the 32-year-old enters just his eighth season, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Jacob deGrom is a Hall of Famer.

Historical Precedent

There are currently 65 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame. That list is sure to grow in the within the next decade as contemporaries like Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw are all but guaranteed to be inducted.

The Big Four Hall of Fame
The Big Four (Image by Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Historically, wins have been one of the most important stats for getting into the Hall. A pitcher typically needed at least 200 wins to be seriously considered by the BBWAA. Fortunately, as times have changed, this mostly meaningless stat has lost a lot of value. This trend is sure to continue once many younger writers enter the BBWAA and replace the older, more traditional members.

Similarly, a lot of emphasis has been placed on longevity in the past. Only 19 HoF pitchers have played less than 15 seasons. 11 of them played in the 1800’s. Again, though, longevity is losing significance. Like wins, it may be a non-factor to most voters by the 2030s. The same can be said for other historically important milestones as well. This includes reaching 3000 innings pitched and 3000 (arguably 2500) strikeouts.

JAWS

To get a better snapshot of what it takes for a starting pitcher to make it to the Hall, Baseball Reference’s JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score System) Leaderboard, is probably the most reliable predictor. Here, the average Hall of Fame starter has 73.3 WAR, 50.0 WAR7 (seven-year WAR peak) and 61.6 JAWS. Verlander (33rd in JAWS), Greinke (36th) and Kershaw (37th) are all roughly in line with these marks and should make up any remaining ground during the 2021 season. Their chances are especially good considering that the most recent starter to be inducted is Roy Halladay. “Doc” ultimately finished his career with only 64.2 WAR and 57.4 JAWS (46th).

As for Scherzer (59th), he technically lags a bit behind this group in WAR and JAWS. That said, he more than makes up for it with his incredible peak (48.0 WAR7) that included three Cy Youngs.

Roy Halliday HoF
Halladay (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Cy Youngs

It’s that last fact about Cy Young Awards that holds major importance as every pitcher (besides Roger Clemens) to win at least three has been enshrined. Scherzer and Kershaw will likely be the eighth and ninth pitchers to join this list. Likewise, since the creation of the award in 1956, 19 of 28 HoF pitchers have won at least one. As for pitchers with exactly two wins, seven have been HoF eligible and four have been inducted. Verlander will probably be the fifth.

Furthermore, 11 pitchers have won multiple Cy Youngs in a row. Seven have been HoF eligible and five have been inducted. The two who didn’t are Clemens and Denny McLain, whose career was lost to injuries.

Current Stats and Projections

deGrom likely won’t reach any of the aforementioned counting stats or WAR, WAR7 and JAWS totals to enter the Hall the traditional way.

A late bloomer, deGrom entered the league at 26 years old. As of his first start in 2021, his record stands at 70-51, with 1175.2 innings pitched and 1366 strikeouts. Likewise, his current WAR, WAR7 and JAWS totals all sit at 38.6. While Verlander, Greinke, Kershaw, and Scherzer are all just over-under the typical thresholds for wins, IP, strikeouts, WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, deGrom is unlikely to reach any of them. Current projections peg him to retire with 66.9 WAR, 42.1 WAR7 and 54.5 JAWS. While these are in the range of previous inductees, they’d all place deGrom in the lower half of the rankings alongside the late 19th-early 20th century members.

Is Jacob deGrom a Hall of Famer
Projections by Dan Szymborski/Fangraphs

An Ace in the Hole

Make no mistake, however, deGrom still has pretty decent chances of making it in. As previously mentioned, the traditional counting stats are losing style with many younger industry members. By the 2030s, the BBWAA should sway heavily in deGrom’s favor here.

It’s also important to note that by virtue of making his debut at age 26, deGrom has nowhere near as much wear on his arm as someone like Kershaw. This means that his regression may occur way later and slower than most other pitchers. His average velocity increasing for the fifth year in a row is a promising sign of this.

NL East
Image courtesy of CBS Sports.

Also helping deGrom are his two Cy Youngs which came in back-to-back years (2018-19). This puts him in incredibly good company as highlighted earlier. If he can remain the best pitcher in baseball for a few more years, he’ll have pretty good odds of adding a third Cy Young to his total. At that point, his path to the Hall would be almost guaranteed.

What’s more, Jay Jaffe, the creator of JAWS, recently made his own Hall of Fame case for deGrom. In it, he argues that deGrom will get in via his current peak and his similarities to Sandy Koufax. Despite only pitching 12 seasons and retiring at age 30, Koufax was still a first ballot inductee. This was because of how dominant he was during that span, especially from 1962-1966 (three Cy Youngs, one MVP).

deGrom’s rate stats compare favorably to Koufax, with him leading in ERA (2.60 vs. 2.76), ERA+ (151 vs. 131), WHIP (1.046 vs. 1.106), and K/9 (10.5 vs. 9.3). Even stats that deGrom trails in, like FIP (2.75 vs. 2.69) and OPS against (.602 vs. .594), are roughly even with Koufax’s incredible marks. Koufax’s WAR (48.9) and JAWS (47.4) totals are also much lower than deGrom’s projected totals.

Verdict

Add everything together and the results look very favorable for deGrom. On top of projecting to have borderline HoF numbers, deGrom’s multiple Cy Youngs and Koufax-like peak should be enough to get him in. With a younger BBWAA voting body by the 2030s, any gripes about his lack of counting stats may be completely irrelevant. So rest assured Mets fans, when all is said and done, deGrom should eventually find himself alongside Seaver in Cooperstown.

Featured Image Courtesy of Rich Schultz/Getty Images

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