Wow! That’s the only way to describe how Jacob deGrom’s season is going. Maybe a pair of them. Wow, wow! You would think, by now, New York Mets fans would expect nothing but the best from him. Yet he continually impresses every time he steps on the mound—and even into the batter’s box.
Through four starts, the best pitcher in baseball is 2-1 with a 0.31 ERA. He’s averaging 15.5 strikeouts per nine, a total you might only expect from the top closers in the game.
I know there’s an argument of sample size this, sample size that one could make. But this is deGrom. We’ve seen him pitch excellently before. This year, we’re seeing something even more amazing. We’re seeing what an MVP-caliber start could look like.
Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is making an early case for MVP consideration
Awarding an MVP award to a pitcher is rare. deGrom has already received some consideration twice in his career. In both Cy Young seasons, he gathered up several votes.
In 2018, his best year thus far, deGrom finished fifth. A season later, when he won his second Cy Young, deGrom was the tenth-place finisher in the vote for the National League’s best player.
I hate to lean into his win totals in either season and I know a lot of the voters didn’t care about them when they handed in their ballots. Still, I think they’re needed to help make the MVP case for a pitcher. With any luck, deGrom is going to get more than usual this year. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a pretty safe bet to at least challenge for the title.
There is no shortage of eye-dropping numbers for deGrom at this early part of the season. Maintaining them is the tough part.
Numbers from past pitchers to win the MVP
Clayton Kershaw is the most recent pitcher to take home an MVP. He did it in 2014 with a 21-3 record and 1.77 ERA. deGrom can certainly hit the ERA number—he beat it in 2018.
Winning 21 games is the challenge. And do it with so few losses. deGrom would not only need to pitch at an astonishing level yet again but he would also need consistent help from his teammates.
The only other pitcher to win the MVP in the last 30 years as a starter is Justin Verlander. In 2011, he was 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. The ERA is impressive but it’s that lopsided record that stands out more than anything else.
It’s not really worth going back further into MLB history to look at where MVP pitchers finished because of how much the game has changed. Twenty wins weren’t nearly as difficult because of how many more starts and innings starters used to log. Needless to say, it has always been a requirement.
Starting pitchers have consistently needed at least 20 wins to win the MVP. It’s understandable. In a league where hitters usually take home the award, a pitcher needs to stand out in the history books.
Any quest deGrom may have for a new kind of trophy to put on his mantle will require some work. Already awarded a no-decision and a tough-luck loss, his record will matter. So will the record of the Mets. deGrom can have another all-time great season to add to the back of his baseball card. This won’t stop National League hitters from putting up their own fancy numbers and ensuring one them gets the MVP instead.
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Taking this all in, deGrom’s chance to win the MVP is not in his favor. But when we look back at his 2018 season featuring just 10 victories, we’re reminded further how well deGrom defies the odds.