So he is the deGrominator. He is definitely a special part of New York Mets history and could end up as one of MLB’s greats. But when it comes to pitchers today, any time they wince, it is concerning. Because you have to wonder, what if this is all there is going to be? Will there be a premature ending? And if so, heaven forbid, Is it enough?
Two Hall of Famers whom Mets fans are very familiar with had relatively short careers and both had less than those supposed “automatic” Hall of Fame entry numbers. But Ralph Kiner and Sandy Koufax were considered so dominant during their respective time in Major League Baseball, that they were elected to the Hall.
Kiner played a total of 10 years, the first 7 ½ with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a short time with both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. He led the National League in home runs for the first seven seasons of his career, including his rookie year.
The Mets broadcaster was the National League Home Run King for seven consecutive seasons
During the seven-year span from 1947-53, Kiner hit 306 homers (averaging 43 per season), drove in 796 runs (113 RBI), and also drew 796 walks (113 BB). His on base percentage for that period was .411 with a league-leading high of .452 in 1951, and .398 for his career. And although he was a pure power hitter, Kiner actually walked more than he struck out during his career, striking out 100 times only once, his rookie year.
A bad back forced Kiner’s retirement at 32 years of age. A six-time All Star, he finished his career with 369 home runs, 1, 015 RBI, and 1,451 total base hits…numbers below the standard of 500 HR, 3,000 hits, and 2,000 RBI, the numbers that are considered automatic for enshrinement for outfielders.
Sandy Koufax got off to slow start before he became so overpowering
Koufax made his debut at the age of 19 for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their World Championship season of 1955. He struggled to find his control during the first six seasons, very similar to the way Nolan Ryan struggled early in his career with the Mets.
But starting with 1961, and for those next six seasons, Koufax averaged 35 starts a season, threw 115 complete games, 35 shutouts, and averaged 285 strikeouts. Three times he won at least 25 games for a total of 129 wins during that period, and three times he threw at least 300 innings with an ERA of 2.21.
His best and last season was the year he turned 30 years old, forced to retire because of a bad arm. That season Koufax led the National League with 27 wins and an ERA of 1.73. He led the league with 41 starts, 323 innings pitched, 317 strikeouts and 27 complete games with five shutouts.
Over his career, Koufax was a six-time All Star, he won three Cy Young Awards and one MVP award. He won a total of 165 games against 87 losses with an ERA of 2.76, striking out 2.396 batters…numbers below the standard of 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, the numbers that are considered automatic for enshrinement for starting pitchers.
The Mets David Wright had a bad back bring his career to a premature end
Now think about David Wright. The Captain. Captain America. If ever a Met – other than Tom Seaver – deserved to have his number retired by the Mets, it IS David Wright. Robbed of a big part of his career in his prime due to spinal stenosis, he still put up some pretty respectable numbers and had a stretch of years that made him the premier third baseman in baseball.
He began his career midway through the 2004 season. During the six-year stretch from 2005-2010, Wright hit for a .305 clip averaging 40 doubles, 25 home runs, 104 RBI, 22 stolen bases, 99 runs scored, with an OBP of .386. He became a member of the 30-30 club in 2007 when he hit 30 home runs and stole 34 bases.
The injuries took their toll on his body and Wright was sapped of his power. But he came back to play 38 games down the stretch in 2015 and blasted some big home runs during the Mets World Series run. But his last full season where he got at least 500 at bats was 2014 when he was only 31 years old. Diagnosed with spinal stenosis, he managed a cameo appearance alongside his long-time partner on the left side of the infield, Jose Reyes, in 2018, to say a very emotional “good-bye” to the fans at Citifield.
Wright only played eight seasons where he got at least 500 at bats. He was a seven-time All Star, two-time Silver Slugger and won two Gold Glove awards. He retired with a career average of .296, 246 home runs, 970 RBI, 196 stolen bases, and OBP of .376. Is what Wright did enough to gain entry into the Hall of Fame? Using the logic vested in Kiner, one would think so. Or does it put Wright in the same class as someone like Dale Murphy who was so dominant for a number of years, hitting 398 home runs, a six-time All Star and a NL MVP in back-to-back seasons? Murphy has been on the outside looking in.
And then there is Jacob deGrom
deGrom began the 2021 campaign having started 184 games for the Mets and a won-loss record of 70-51 with a career ERA of a mere 2.60. He has struck out 1,366 batters in just 1,175.2 innings. That’s an average of 10.5 K’s per nine innings. Koufax? He averaged 9.3 K’s per nine innings.
deGrom was outstanding from the beginning, winning the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Award. He was consistently good, but then began a three-year stretch where he has been the Sandy Koufax of his generation. In 2018, he led the NL with a paltry 1.70 ERA and struck out 269 hitters in 217 innings. His record? Ten wins against nine losses…10-9…and he had to literally eek out the 10th win at the end of the season, and won his first Cy Young Award. deGrom followed that up with a record of 11-9 and a 2.43 ERA with 255 strikeouts in 204 innings in 2019 and his second consecutive Cy Young Award. In the strike-shortened 2020 season, he went 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA and an overpowering 104 K’s in 68 innings. Each year his WHIP has been under 1.000.
And before he went on the IL, deGrom was 3-2 on the season with a 0.68 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 40 innings thus far. His WHIP? 0.600. His career WHIP is 1.033. Koufax’s career WHIP was 1.106.
It seems to me that deGrom has out-Koufaxed Sandy Koufax. But is it enough…enough to garner Hall of Fame credentials? Or does he need more? Another Cy Young Award? Some more wins? Well…he doesn’t seem to be in control of that? Some more strikeouts? He can do that. But for how long?
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Kiner dominated for a relatively short time. Koufax dominated for an even shorter time. deGrom has been deGrominating for over three years now. He got a late start, debuting in his Age 26 season because of health issues. Hopefully he won’t be derailed on the other end because of any physical breakdown that curtailed Kiner and Koufax and his former teammate, David Wright. deGrom surely has some more left in him. But when it comes to the Hall of Fame, it may be that “more is never enough.”