Whenever Jacob deGrom takes the mound, there’s is a sense that history is being made. One of the best pitchers of his generation, deGrom was already making professionals look like littler leaguers for years. Yet somehow, at 32-years-old, he’s still getting better. Whether or not he ends up in the Hall of Fame (spoiler, he should) is a trivial matter at the moment. For in 2021, deGrom has already separated from the rest of the pack to stand alone as the undisputed best pitcher in baseball.
The Best Gets Better
At this point, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the opposing batters. Since his rookie season in 2014, deGrom has been one of the elite pitchers in baseball. Entering this season, he commanded an incredible 2.61 ERA, 150 ERA+, 2.75 FIP, 1.047 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9. To maintain this level of consistency over seven seasons is enough to convince many that deGrom is “deGoat.” But for the perfectionist that he is, this simply isn’t enough.
Not getting the message that pitchers are supposed to decline in their mid-30s, deGrom is unbelievably taking things up a notch in 2021. Through his first five starts, he is producing a minuscule 0.31 ERA, 0.86 FIP and 0.552 WHIP, all while his strikeout rate soars to 15.5 K/9 and his ERA+ reaches an inconceivable 1233. For reference, 100 is the average for ERA+, meaning deGrom is currently pitching more than 12 times better than the average pitcher. The man simply isn’t human.
Adding context to how ridiculous this level of production is are deGrom’s ever improving velocity and movement numbers. In 2014, his four-seam fastball averaged around 94.2 mph. In 2021, this number has skyrocketed to 99 mph. Likewise, in 2015 (the earliest recording point) the spin rate on his four-seamer was 2261 rpm. Now, it’s averaging 2412 rpm.
It’s not just his fastball that’s improving either. Both his slider and changeup are more effective than ever. He’s added around two more inches of vertical movement and another inch of horizontal movement to each pitch since 2020.
Oh, and if pitching better than ever isn’t enough, deGrom is also dominating teams with his bat. No that’s not a joke, he is literally, almost single handedly, winning games on offense. In 11 at bats, he’s racked up six hits including a double, two RBIs and three runs. He is unironically one of the best hitters on the Mets right now.
Jacob deGrom is batting .556 this season! 🤯
— MLB (@MLB) April 24, 2021
Unsurprisingly, this dominance is going a long way in positioning deGrom atop the leaderboards. Currently, he leads the entire league in ERA, ERA+, hits per nine innings (4.0 H/9), and bWAR (1.9). As far as other stats go, he is second in WHIP to Corbin Burnes (0.545), second in K/9 to Freddy Peralta (15.546) and third in FIP behind Burnes (0.51) and Gerrit Cole (0.73). Luckily, these differences are small enough that it’ll only take a single bad game from any of these guys for deGrom to reclaim the top spots.
In terms of velocity, deGrom is virtually unmatched. His four-seamer, slider (91.4 mph) and changeup (91.3 mph) are all the fastest in the league. Because of this, it’s no wonder that despite having one less start than most pitchers, deGrom is still second in strikeouts, trailing only Shane Bieber (57) by seven Ks.
Where to Next
deGrom has already set a couple of records this year. Following his 15-strikeout complete game shutout, he set the record for the most strikeouts ever through the first four starts of the season (50). Also, with that performance, he moved ahead of Tom Seaver to claim the title of lowest ERA in Mets history at 2.55.
So where does deGrom go now that he’s striking out batters faster than anyone in history while also topping the best pitcher in Mets history?
The easy answer is to say that he’ll win another Cy Young award. After all, he was the favorite going into this year and has done nothing to prove otherwise. Had it not been for the shortened schedule last season, deGrom may already have his third Cy Young.
But why stop there. Assuming the Mets are the playoff contender they claim to be, riding deGrom’s dominance all the way to the postseason might be enough to convince MVP voters to go his way. This isn’t an easy task, however, as Clayton Kershaw is the last pitcher to win MVP, all the way back in 2014.
On top of helping the Dodgers win their division, Kershaw also produced one of the greatest seasons ever by a pitcher. Led by a 1.77 ERA, he topped the league in eight different categories. If deGrom wants to become the 26th pitcher in history to win MVP, Kershaw’s 2014 season is the benchmark.
And hey, if that doesn’t happen, at least deGrom will probably go home with his first Silver Slugger award.
Featured Image Courtesy of Steven Ryan/Getty Images
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