New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom has established himself as the best pitcher in all of baseball, and it’s not particularly close. He won back to back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019, an ERA title in 2018, and back to back strikeout titles each of the last two seasons. Safe to say that’s pretty dominant.
This is all being done by a guy who was a shortstop in college. He didn’t start pitching consistently until his junior year of college at Stetson. Yet, he is now at the top of the sport, dominating just about every hitter he faces.
So that begs the question: how is he so good? What makes him the best? Here are four reasons why.
The Mets ace has incredible velocity, and not just on his fastball
When you think of a superstar pitcher, you immediately think of velocity. Guys like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan come to mind, and deGrom certainly fits that category. deGrom’s average fastball velocity this season is 99.1 miles per hour, the best in baseball. What’s even more amazing than that, is the increase in his velocity since he came up.
Typically with age, pitchers tend to lose velocity, that’s not much of a secret. deGrom is the exception to that rule. Back in 2016, he was averaging just 93.9 mph with his fastball. In the years to follow, he would go up from there to 95.1 mph, 95.8, 96.9, 98.7, to 99.1 currently. It’s unheard of in the sport.
While the fastball velocity is remarkable, he also has some of the hardest off-speed pitches in the game. According to Baseball Savant, his average slider velocity is 92.5, and his average changeup velocity is 91.4. To put that into perspective, both of those pitches are above the league average fastball velocity back in 2008. It’s simply other-worldly.
deGrom has elite command with all of his pitches
Command is the name of the game for any pitcher, regardless of how hard you throw. deGrom has masterful command of all of his pitches, and it shows in his walk rate.
In his now eighth season, deGrom has never walked more than 3 batters per nine innings. Three of the last four years he has walked less than 2 batters per nine innings. With a focus on velocity over efficiency in today’s game, he has become one of the rare pitchers that excels in both areas.
Of course, having great command isn’t just about not walking batters, it’s also about hitting your spots. Can you dot up the outside corner whenever you want to? Can you throw your off-speed pitches for strikes at any time in the count? Can you dominate the inner half of the plate, especially against the middle of the order?
I don’t need to explain to you that deGrom is great at all of those things. If you’ve ever watched him pitch, you’re more than aware.
He is an incredible athlete on the mound
I don’t want to hear any “pitchers aren’t athletes” comments from anyone. As a former pitcher myself, I won’t stand for it. I’m here to tell you right now, pitchers are athletes, and this dude is a prime example.
A great and underrated part of deGrom’s game is his ability to field his position. He is extremely smooth and athletic as a fielder. His first step off the mound is very quick, he’s excellent at turning double plays, and is overall a good thrower of the ball.
His athletic ability also translates well into his mechanics. Having great athleticism leads to having great body control, which is why he is so easily able to repeat his delivery. In his delivery, he’s able to generate great speed down the mound, and his flexibility allows for great hip to shoulder separation, which is a main component for generating velocity.
Body control is an athletic skill and so is fielding, and he’s great at both. So if you think pitchers aren’t athletes, please just stop.
Calm, cool, and collected at all times
Jacob deGrom never flinches. He never looks rattled, he never shows bad body language, and he never changes his facial expression much during his outing. The possible exception to that being when something good happens.
I think I speak for Mets fans when I say, I never worry for a second about anything when Jacob deGrom pitches. I could worry about the defense, the offense, the manager, but never him.
It always seems like he has everything completely under control. That gives me confidence as a fan, but that also gives the players confidence. When your best player keeps his composure, it encourages others to do the same.
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It allows his teammates to settle down even in the biggest moments. They have the ability to calm down and focus because they know that Jacob has everything under control.