It’s been said again and again that spring training numbers don’t count, but one number should have leaped off the screen for you last week – 97. As in, 97 mph registered on the Juggs radar gun with Jacob deGrom pitching in his first spring training appearance, and following surgery to relocate the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow to relieve numbness and pain.
By his standards, deGrom had an off year in 2016. He struggled with his velocity much of the season, hovering around 92 mph most of the season, rather than his typical 96. It was revealed late in the season that deGrom was pitching through some elbow pain and he was shut down after his September 1 start. However, despite the pain, and a ridiculous lack of run support that cost him a number of wins, deGrom battled through and delivered a very respectable 3.04 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. The numbers looked a lot better than that prior to his last three starts, when he was really pitching through pain. Up until that point, he’d contributed 16 quality starts through 19 turns through the rotation.
As commendable as that is, deGrom’s 22 starts, like his ERA and WHIP were career worsts for him. Following a dazzling Rookie of the Year campaign in 2014, deGrom turned it up a notch in his sophomore season to the tune of a 14-8 record, with a 2.54 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched. On top of that, he was a beast in October, going 3-1 in four playoff starts with a 2.88 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25 innings.
By all accounts, deGrom feels great and has rediscovered his high-velocity fastball, which is terrible news for opposing hitters. His pinpoint control and natural movement make his fastball hard enough to hit in the low 90s. Pair that with a biting slider, sinking changeup and some better run support, and we have the makings of a Cy Young candidate. It’s easy to love Jacob deGrom. His easy going nature makes him unflappable on the hill, even in the highest pressure situations. His floppy long hair, skinny frame, and toothy grin make you forget what an assassin he can be on the mound. While all the focus may be on Thor and the Dark Knight, the deGrominator (thanks, Jim Breuer) is poised to have one hell of a season.