By Joe Rini
One team stands in between Jacob deGrom and the 2018 Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, it’s his own team.
Calling to mind the Cy Young Award winning seasons of Doc Gooden in 1985 and Tom Seaver in 1971, deGrom has pitched to a major league leading 1.71 ERA and allowed only 23 earned runs in his last 21 starts. Yet, whereas the earlier Mets aces were 20 game winners in their glory seasons, and despite deGrom’s statistical dominance, his won-loss record stands at modest 8-7 with five weeks to go in the season. If deGrom pitches at this pace for the rest of the season, will it be enough for the Cy Young voters to overlook a modest win total when his main competitor Max Scherzer already has 16 wins?
DeGrom’s season has been mind-boggling good and head shakingly strange. Besides lowering his ERA to 1.71 with Saturday’s complete game 3-1 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia, deGrom struck out nine and surpassed 200 punch-outs for the third time. Yet somehow, through a combination of poor run support and shoddy late inning relief pitching, the Mets have managed to lose 14 of his 25 starts this season.
During a stretch that would elicit sympathy from Job, deGrom didn’t get credit for a victory in seven starts between April 21 and July 11 despite pitching seven innings or more and allowing one or fewer runs, which seems like a typographical error. On August 3, he allowed only two runs in eight innings against the Braves and drove in a run; unfortunately it was the only run the Mets scored and he lost 2-1. Forty ones years after the trade of Tom Seaver outraged Mets fans, there was a segment of fans mercifully rooting for a trade of their ace, if only to spare deGrom the further frustration of pitching so well and not being rewarded for it.
While deGrom’s dominance has made this season memorable, it’s also the classy way the righthander has held himself accountable and not pointed fingers at his teammates that has impressed people. His postgame comments after Saturday’s game were typical deGrom as he said, “I definitely wanted to go out there and pitch well. But every time I take the mound, I want to put up zeros. What other guys do is out of my control.”
With deGrom having about seven starts remaining this season, he’ll need his teammates to step up and help him earn as many wins as possible to bolster his case for the Cy Young Award, especially if Max Scherzer closes in on 20 wins. Since his record fell to 5-7 on August 3, deGrom has won his last three starts and his teammates have even given him some run support by scoring eight runs in two of the games.
People supporting deGrom winning the Cy Young point to 2010 when the statistically dominant Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners overcame a modest 13-12 to take home the prize in the American League that season. While there may not be a pennant race at Citi Field, deGrom is giving fans a reason to pay attention when he’s on the mound.