That sense of comfort changed when the neighbors in the Bronx, the big brother Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract during the last offseason. This instantly started the debate of who was the best starting pitcher in New York, deGrom or Cole? This is a logical reaction to have to the rival team signing a player of such stature, who plays the same position that your best player plays. And for what it’s worth, the stats between the two pitchers are enough to make even the most casual of baseball fans drool.
Looking at the performance of both pitchers last season, there is a case to be made that they were the two best pitchers in the league last season. Cole lead the American League in ERA last season with the Astros by putting up a mark of 2.50. deGrom, though he did not lead the National League, put up a stronger ERA of 2.43. deGrom recorded 255 strikeouts, but Cole recorded 326. The pitchers are so evenly matched that when you look at their career numbers, that deGrom ranks seventh all-time in strikeouts per nine innings with a mark of 10.2526, right in front of Cole’s mark of 10.0619.
While the debate of who is the better pitcher is one that is certain to capture the minds and voices of sports journalists and talk show hosts throughout the season, there is a clear winner in the situation. The fans of New York baseball teams, and arguably Major League Baseball are clearly winners in Cole’s decision to don the pinstripes.
The most clear and obvious winner is the New York Yankees, because they finally got their front of the rotation ace that they have been lacking the last few seasons. In a larger scope, deGrom’s career should benefit from having a foil in his career to be compared to. Over the course of his career, the conversation around him has evolved from talking about his All-Star potential, to his CY Young potential, to now people having conversations about what he needs to do to prove himself as a Hall of Famer.
Working against that conversation is that deGrom has not had the fortune of playing for the best teams. Famously, the Mets have always lacked the ability to give run support to deGrom when he starts, and his career win totals have suffered from that. To boot, deGrom has only pitched in the postseason once. The big stage performances still need to happen for deGrom, and some potential matchups with Cole could provide that for him.
Scribes of deGrom’s baseball career and baseball writers will not be the only ones to take notice of comparisons and battles between deGrom and Cole. Casual fans will be drawn to the duels between the high-strikeout pitchers, and interest will be at a national level. This could not have come at a better time for Major League Baseball, who will need to do all they can to bring fans back into the game following an ugly labor dispute between the players in the owners that will likely spill into the following offseason. The allure of deGrom and Cole battling it out ala Mark McGwire–Sammy Sosa style could reinvigorate interest in the game, which has been on a downturn over the past couple of seasons.
Cole was a top prospect coming out of high school, even being drafted by the New York Yankees before deciding to turn down a $4 million signing bonus to pitch with Trevor Bauer on the UCLA Bruins. deGrom was converted from a shortstop during his junior year at Stetson, and had to fight through a Tommy John surgery to reach where he is during his career. Though they have different backgrounds and now pitch for two stark rivals, the two have an opportunity to not only better each other’s careers through their rivalry, but also rebuild interest in a sport that has been its own enemy lately.
deGrom recorded a 2.50 ERA in 2019
Cole recorded 326 strikeouts in 2019
deGrom and Cole rank seventh and eight all-time in strikeouts per nine innings