The following paragraphs will contain some blasphemy. There will be “what ifs”, and optimistic projections. All in an intellectual exercise to examine where Jacob deGrom lies within the New York Mets Pantheon.

For Christmas, Bill Madden’s latest book on Tom Seaver made its way to Mets fans across the country. Seaver is arguably the best right-handed pitcher of all-time, and thus certainly within the framework of the Mets franchise, he is The Franchise. He is appropriately afforded a level of love and respect his stature calls for. That was not always so, but everyone has come around on Tom Terrific.

Seaver pitched for the Mets for 12 seasons (11.5, grrrr). 400 games, 200 wins, 3000 innings, 2.57 ERA, 2500 strikeouts, 76 WAR. The top pitcher, the top player, for the Mets by wide margins. Seaver’s rotation partner, Jerry Koosman, is largely unheralded, but his accumulated stats in Mets history would be top tier on many teams without Seaver.

You may be saying, “Where are you going with this?”

deGrom started his career at age 26. That is quite late for a player that appears to be the best around. As a result, his career, to date, is approximately 40-45% of Seaver’s, but deGrom has some advantages.

Player Years W L G GS IP SO BF WAR
Seaver 11.4 198 124 401 395 3045.2 2541 12191 76.0
deGrom 6.4 70 51 183 183 1169.2 1359 4654 38.5
Relative % 56% 35% 41% 46% 46% 38% 53% 38% 51%
deGrom Per 162 16 7 34 34 217 252 865 6.7
Contract 4 64 28 136 136 868 1008 3460 26.8
Contract +2 6 96 42 204 204 1302 1512 5190 40.2
Total 4 10.4 134 79 319 319 2037.2 2367 8114 65.3
Total 6 12.4 166 93 387 387 2471.2 2871 9844 78.7

deGrom is currently fourth in career WAR, passing Koosman in the abbreviated 2020. He is 3 WAR behind Dwight Gooden (11 seasons), and 11 WAR behind David Wright. You read that right – deGrom is a season and a half from placing himself as the second greatest Met of All Time. Sure, Ed Kranepool played 18 years with the Mets, but the best players have played 11 or 12. Wright is listed at 14 seasons, but we all know about his last three.

If deGrom plays out his current contract, four more seasons, he will pass Wright and Gooden handily, and be within a few seasons of Seaver’s WAR and Ks. If, like Seaver, he decides to finish his career with the Mets, and the Mets, now Wilpon-less, value deGrom and want to reward his greatness, offer him a two- or three-year extension to finish his career, deGrom will pass Seaver in those key categories, and be remarkably close in games and games started. Due to deGrom’s famously poor win rate, beyond his control, he is not likely to even approach Seaver in wins. deGrom could get closer if he can break out of his luck and win 20 for a couple of seasons.

When Gooden was so dominant, people wondered if he could supplant Seaver, but there are many obstacles – injuries, distractions – for any “next great player”. deGrom has dodged those by arriving to the majors late.

One statistic ignored thusfar is ERA. Seaver’s Met ERA was 2.57. deGrom’s is 2.61 and dropping significantly the last few seasons. After 2021, deGrom is likely to pass Seaver in ERA.
In five years, will we have to reconsider the greatest Met?

deGrom’s greatness is not limited to Mets superiority. In the “Wild Card Era” (since 1995), deGrom is second in ERA to Clayton Kershaw and third in ERA+ to Kershaw and Pedro Martinez. Expanding the era, and deGrom stays in second, whether is it is “Divisional Era” (1969), “Expansion Era” (1961), Integration Era (1947), or even “Live Ball Era” (1920). He is second in FIP, only behind Sandy Koufax. He stays third in ERA+. The caveat is deGrom has not hit his decline phase yet – Seaver’s ERA was 2.57 as a Met, but 2.86 for his career. We can expect deGrom’s last few seasons will be above his current rate, so he will have to drive his ERA down in the next few seasons to minimize the overall impact.

deGrom is more dominant than any of his peers, save Clayton Kershaw. He is definitely on pace for the Hall of Fame, and the Mets should keep him and pay him what it takes to become the next Tom Seaver.

9 comments on “Just how great is Jacob deGrom in Mets history?

  • Brian Joura

    I think deGrom is woefully underappreciated by the fanbase. This article has been up all day and hasn’t gotten a single comment until after the MNF game was over.

    But he’s going to have to pitch better than Greg Maddux did from age 33-39 to catch Seaver. By fWAR, he’s going to have to average 5 WAR per season over the next seven to catch Seaver. To date, deGrom has two seasons of 5 or greater fWAR, although those two combined for 16.

    And the difference is even greater for bWAR.

    For his age 33-39 seasons, Seaver amassed a 16.4 fWAR.

    I’m not saying deGrom can’t catch Seaver. But to do it, he’s going to have to put up somewhere around the 10th-best pitching of all-time for guys in their age 33-39 seasons.

    • Remember1969

      Brian, I am absent from this discussion because these types of articles are not particularly interesting to me. I generally don’t like to get into the comparison discussions, particularly between players of different times.

      Tom Seaver was the guy when I was growing up; they guy I rooted for and the guy that helped the Mets win games and a championship.

      Doc Gooden was electric in the mid eighties and the number 1 guy on a terrific staff that also helped the Mets win games and a championship.

      Jacob deGrom is a great pitcher on the current team that I know always gives the Mets a good chance to win the game when he pitches.

      I do not rate them against each other. I just appreciate them for who they are at the time they are pitching. WAR values don’t do much for me.

    • Chris Dial

      That really is key – look at 2020 – deGrom was on pace for about 6 WAR. And his age 33-39 wouldn’t be consistent. He’ll have to go 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4. Something like that. Yes, it’s very optimistic (you were warned), but such a chance even exists? I would never have thought Seaver was touchable.

  • Mike W

    deGrom has been a dominating pitcher over the last three years. Arguably the best in MLB during this period. Love to watch him pitch.

    I think what hurts deGrom are the optics of his record. No decisions hide his greatness.

    As an old school baseball fan, I enjoyed watching Seaver pitch complete game victories. Got spoiled with him. I dont enjoy seeing starters pitch six innings and get taken out.

    I don’t think he will catch Seaver, but I sure hope that he continues to pitch the way that he has been.

  • TexasGusCC

    I had put in a comment and thought it posted… I’ll double check my phone…

    On the article, there is no doubt that JDG is among the top two or three Mets pitchers of all time,p. SNY did something on this a few weeks ago and they compared Seaver’s Cy Young seasons and Gooden’s, to deGrom’s. They rated JDG’s third best. Truth is, wins matter. While we are glad our guy won the two Cy Young’s, a 25-3 Guidry-type season or a few well deserved high win seasons will put JdG in a better category league wide. I can’t say that JdG isn’t the best pitcher the Mets ever had because while Seaver enjoys the numbers, he also pitched in an era that was less offense oriented, though no one is touching Gooden’s 1985. But, while JdG appeals to the stat heads, I would like to see him be more like Scherzer and pitch some complete games because truth is JDG’s leaving games early to the bullpen has cost him.

  • Chris F

    I cant see there is anything up for debate: deGrom is the same class as Seaver, Koosman, and Doc. I think Koosman is the underappreciated great Mets pitcher.

  • Metsense

    deGrom is my favorite Met now and Seaver is my favorite Met of all time.
    Seaver averaged 7 2/3 inning per start and deGrom averages 6 2/3. That one inning each start would probably increase deGrom’s ERA because he should get more fatigued. He also would have more opportunities to get the a win or loss.
    deGrom should be complemented as the Seaver of this Met generation and just mentioning the similar comparison indicates how great Jacob deGrom really is.

  • Joe Vasile

    It’s tough to use any flavor of WAR to compare a pitcher of this era against Seaver’s era. Since it is a counting stat based on how much you throw, fewer innings and fewer starts now automatically will hamstring today’s starters automatically. Given that, I think a better measurement to compare (this is very rough, and there is likely something better) is WAR/200.0 IP.

    In Tom Seaver’s Mets career, he amassed 76.0 rWAR in 3045.2 IP, which amounts to 4.99 rWAR/200.
    In Jacob deGrom’s Mets career, he has amassed 35.9 rWAR in 1169.2 IP, which amounts to 6.13 rWAR/200.
    Here’s the numbers for Doc Gooden: 41.6 rWAR, 2169.2 IP, 3.83 rWAR/200.

    Obviously like you mentioned it’s probably unreasonable to expect deGrom’s numbers to be so dominant in his late-career decline, but I was shocked at just how much better he was than Seaver by this one measure.

  • Vlad A.

    Pure numbers, DeGrom approaches Seaver’s dominance while on mound. But, all other things being equal, the number of innings for each is and will remain significant. DeGrom doesn’t complete games, in an era where complete games are virtually extinct. Seaver completed games. He dominated as DeGrom did, but often finished what he started; anytime an ace can stay in game, avoiding the possibility of being undermined by the pen, is usually best for the team. DeGrom, like every current ace, isn’t used to that kind of workload.

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