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The easiest thing is to remind people that Wins is a team stat given to an individual player based on outdated guidelines.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.