Most of us have an inherent sense of fairness, where we want to see guys rewarded for the work that they do. This can manifest itself in many ways, both positive and negative. For me, it burns me up when someone gets preferential treatment because they were good on another team three years ago. How is that fair? Others get riled up when a player gets busted for steroids and then they have to watch a guy that they know is a cheater. And maybe the biggest thing that offends Mets fans is how Jacob deGrom can be masterful yet not get a win for his efforts.

Currently, deGrom is on a streak of pitching that rivals anything the Mets and their fans have ever seen, even those who saw Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver at their absolute best. In his last 70 starts, deGrom has a 193 ERA+, which adjusts for league and ballpark to put players on an equal footing. Seaver’s best in a single season was the 194 he put up in 1971 but he wasn’t close to that mark in either 1970 (143) or 1972 (115).

Gooden had a 229 ERA+ in his remarkable 1985. And if you give him his last 10 starts of 1984 (76 IP, 9 ER) and his first eight starts of 1986 (65 IP, 9 ER), he’s likely better than deGrom. But that’s a total of 53 starts, leaving him 17 starts shy of deGrom and his current streak. Gooden gave the Mets 417.2 IP in that span, compared to the 456 IP that deGrom has in his last 70 games. Gooden never really approached those other-worldly numbers again and deGrom, well deGrom just keeps on churning.

In his last 10 starts, deGrom has 63 IP, 34 H, 8 ER, 9 BB and 84 Ks. That’s a 1.14 ERA, a 0.683 WHIP and a 9.33 K/BB ratio. Bob Gibson’s 1968 when he put up a 1.12 ERA in 304.2 IP in 34 starts is considered the gold standard. But Gibson did that at a time of overall pitching dominance. The entire NL had a 2.99 ERA in ’68, as hitters in the league had just a .641 OPS. In 2019, the NL had a 4.38 ERA and a .753 OPS and so far here in 2020, those numbers are 4.50 and .741, respectively. Gibson never pitched in a league with an OPS higher than .660 in his 17-year career.

In his magical ’68 season, Gibson had 22 Wins in 34 starts. Gooden had 24 Wins in 35 starts in ’85 and Seaver notched 20 Wins in ’71 and two years earlier he put up 25 Wins. Meanwhile, deGrom has 23 Wins in 70 games since the start of the 2018 season. It just doesn’t seem fair.

The easiest thing is to remind people that Wins is a team stat given to an individual player based on outdated guidelines. But it’s also an incredibly easy thing to comprehend and the older ones among us had it beaten into our heads that it was the best way to judge how good a pitcher was. Catfish Hunter can make the Hall of Fame because of five straight 20-Win seasons despite a career 104 ERA+ and no one bats an eye. That sort of thing doesn’t drift away easily.

In those 70 starts, deGrom has 40 decisions, going 23-17. It’s mind boggling that he has 17 losses. But that doesn’t even tell the full story. In deGrom’s 30 no-decisions, the Mets are 10-20. The Mets have essentially been a .500 team since the start of 2018, going 176-177 in their last 353 games. Yet somehow when arguably the best pitcher in franchise history goes to the mound, their team record is 33-37. And it’s taken a Dave Wottle kick to even get to that record, as the Mets are 9-1 in deGrom’s last 10 starts.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting deGrom to be rewarded for his tremendous pitching with a “W” at the end of the game. But he doesn’t need a shiny Wins total for people to recognize his greatness, as the past two Cy Young Awards have shown us. But the team needs to win those games. Broadcaster Gary Cohen has said again and again and again how in this shortened season, the Mets have to win when deGrom starts. But the length of the season has no difference in that regard. The Mets would have made the playoffs last year if they had given just team-average offensive and bullpen performances on the days that deGrom pitched. Instead the team went 14-18.

The Mets are 5-1 when deGrom starts this year and that one game they lost was certainly one that they shouldn’t have. It’s disappointing that deGrom is just 2-0 this season but the Mets winning 83% of his starts is great news and kind of how it should be. After witnessing some unbelievably bad supporting-cast performances for most of the 2018-19 seasons when deGrom took the hill, it’s nice to see the wins pile up here in 2020, even if those wins aren’t going on deGrom’s ledger.

12 comments on “Jacob deGrom and how greatness doesn’t equal fairness

  • José

    I’m calling the 2020 CYA for JdG – remember that I said it here!

    • Name

      I mentioned this in the chatter last night, but there is no rationale for having awards based on NL/AL, because the schedule isn’t set up that way. If they wanted to do awards it needs to be based on region – one for East, Central, West and not split by league – as it’s unfair to judge two players who do not face the same competition. It would be like comparing a player in MLB to a player in Japan baseball and asking which player had the better season.

      Another way to look at it, there are 15 teams per league and any given player is only going to face a maximum of 4 of those 15 teams. How can we say a player is the best in the “league” when they haven’t even faced 75% of the possible opposing teams!

      • TexasGusCC

        Very good points Name.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    Great article…it’s fair to acknowledge what you bring on a regular basis.

    Regarding Mr. DeGrom, I don’t find anything unfair about his treatment or his career. He is clearly the ace of his team, acknowledged by most in baseball as among the best pitchers in the sport over a several year span, has be given multiple awards to recognize that, and at somewhere around $36 million per season guaranteed, he is among the highest paid at his profession and filthy rich compared to most everyone in the country.

    Following the Mets since the early 70s, I’ve been trained to care less for the W-L record. Guys like Matlack and Swan were tremendous with bad teams behind them and certainly lost out on “wins”.

    A pitcher’s job has always been to prevent runs and get as many outs as they can. Given the changes in the game, for better or worse, whereby the hitting has deepened greatly and pitch count strategies employed, starters throw less innings and less complete games. Certainly, the Mets have given deGrom terrible support, because they have been mostly a bad team and especially so in his starts. Those paying attention know how good he is at his craft, recognize how special a talent he is, and how lucky we are to see him every fifth day.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks TJ!

      Jake made his MLB debut in 2014. Since that year, the Mets are 502-499. So it seems better to say that they’re an average team, rather than a bad one.

      • TJ

        True. Average overall, particularly bad for some reason when he pitches.

  • Metsense

    It is finally good that the wins are piling up the deGrom starts. When deGrom is dominant, which is usually every start, he should remain in the game until he gets tired not when a pitch count gets 100. A dominating deGrom should get a chance in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning. He is better than one else in the Met’s bullpen. A good manager should see the signs when a pitcher in tiring, deGrom is one the best pitchers in baseball and he should given more responsibility in the outcome of his games just like Seaver (231 CG), Gooden (68 CG) Hunter (181 CG) and Gibson (255 CG). deGrom is in this class of pitchers and should be treated as such.

  • José

    I just noticed that the Metsies are starting a 5-game series against the Evil Empire.
    Normally, I’d feel dread because them Damn Yankees are always so good.
    But then I saw that the Yanks are on a 5-game losing streak, which I greeted with great cheer.
    Alas, I realized that, because they are traditionally so good, they’re bound to break that losing streak, likely by starting a winning streak
    Such is the life of a fan of NYC’s “other BB team”

  • Name

    So we all know deGrom has been extremely unlucky in the win department and team win department, but i was curious if someone had been the opposite and experienced really good luck when they were bad. I only searched from 2000 onwards.

    Best i found was Colby Lewis 2003 with the Rangers.
    They went 71-91 that year and Colby Lewis had a 7.30 ERA/69 ERA+, but he managed to go 10-9 and the team went 15-11 in his starts.

    • Brian Joura

      Another one for your consideration is Mark Hendrickson, who had a 74 ERA+ for the 67-95 Rays in 2005 and went 11-8. He threw 51.1 more innings than Lewis.

      • Name

        I had Lewis rated higher on the luck department as the Rays only went 15-16 in those starts

  • Mike W

    I love dominant starting pitchers. Jake sure is in the conversation with Seaver.

    I see two main reasons for Jake’s lack of wins. They haven’t scored a lot of runs for him. Would like to see the team batting average and runs scored in the innings he pitched. Secondly, the bullpen.

    How many games did he have a lead like last night, that got blown?

    He could end up with his third Cy Young award in a row. That would be great.

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