In just eight Major League seasons (really seven and a half), New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom has already accomplished more than most big league pitchers could dream of doing. He has won two Cy Young awards and finished in the top eight in Cy Young voting three other times. He won the Rookie of the Year, pitched in a World Series, finished top 10 in MVP voting twice, and has been selected to four All-Star games. deGrom is, unquestionably, one of the greatest pitchers in Mets history and of his generation.
Mets fans these days approach deGrom’s starts with an additional sense of urgency and wonder, partly because of what it means to the team on that day, and partly because they realize they could be watching a pitcher with the potential to immortalize himself in Cooperstown. There are just two Hall of Famers with Mets caps on their plaques: Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. Many other excellent players have passed through Queens over the years and become stars, but have lacked the durability or discipline to cross over from “very good” to “Hall of Fame-caliber.”
So, what, specifically, does deGrom need to do in order to become the third player with a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame?
By the Hall’s eligibility criteria, an MLB player must play at least 10 seasons in order to be on the Hall of Fame ballot, so obviously deGrom will have to play at least two more seasons in order to be eligible. But of course, his candidacy potential runs much deeper than just his longevity.
There are several active pitchers who most baseball fans and experts would consider “shoo-ins” for the Hall if their careers ended today, including Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke. All four have racked up over 2,500 strikeouts, at least one Cy Young award, and over 2,400 innings pitched in their careers.
deGrom only has 1,505 strikeouts in his career so far, so he has a long way to go before the vaulted 2,500- or 3,000-strikeout ledger. However, given that he has averaged 258 strikeouts per 162-game season in his career so far, a healthy deGrom should be able to get to at least 2,500 over the next few seasons, which also gives him a very good chance to become the Mets’ all-time strikeout leader, ranking even above Seaver, before he retires.
One stat in which deGrom is in very good standing, compared to these living legends, is WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Among all pitchers in MLB history with at least 1,000 innings pitched, deGrom’s career 1.011 WHIP ranks fifth. He is ahead of all the afore-mentioned HOF candidates except for Kershaw, whose 1.004 WHIP ranks just above deGrom’s. Yes, many of the living and retired greats on that list have many more innings pitched than deGrom. But his exceptional WHIP thus far puts him in an excellent position to keep pace with his HOF-caliber counterparts, even if it goes up a bit as his career progresses.
If strikeouts or WHIP aren’t quite your jam when evaluating potential HOF candidacy, how about ERA? Among all active pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched, deGrom’s 2.50 ERA ranks second behind only Kershaw (2.49). Once again, deGrom is far ahead of surefire HOFers Scherzer (3.16), Verlander (3.33), and Greinke (3.41) in this department.
What about WAR (wins above replacement) for pitchers? deGrom has racked up 40.7 WAR as a pitcher in his career, according to Baseball Reference. The only active pitchers ahead of him are Verlander (72.2), Kershaw (69.1), Greinke (68.0), Scherzer (66.2), Cole Hamels (58.3), Chris Sale (46.6), and Jon Lester (44.4). deGrom may not have the longevity to pass some of these active greats, and he very well may be passed by pitchers behind him on the list, but he has undeniably put himself among the company of several sure-to-be Hall of Famers with the pitcher WAR he has accumulated so far in his career.
Perhaps FIP (fielding independent pitching), which focuses solely on events that pitchers have the most control over, is more your style. In that category, deGrom ranks first among all active pitchers (minimum 1,000 innings) with a 2.64 career FIP, ahead of all of the “fab four” already mentioned; Kershaw is second (2.77), Scherzer seventh (3.13), Verlander ninth (3.41), and Greinke 12th (3.44).
If you’re looking purely at hardware, deGrom is one of only five active pitchers to have won multiple Cy Young awards. The other four are Scherzer (three), Kershaw (three), Verlander (two), and Corey Kluber (two). While simply winning multiple Cy Youngs is not enough to guarantee enshrinement into the hallowed Hall (just look at Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, or Kluber as examples of this), it is absolutely a nice addition to deGrom’s case as one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation.
The one thing potentially holding deGrom back from a HOF induction right now is his lack of innings and seasons so far. Even with everything listed above, he’ll need to dominate for at least a few more years to be a slam-dunk entry into Cooperstown.
Here is how deGrom needs to pad his resume to become a Hall of Famer:
• At least 1,000 more strikeouts
• At least 15 more bWAR as a pitcher
• Two more Cy Young-caliber seasons
• At least five more seasons overall
And here are the stats he needs to finish his career with to ensure HOF selection:
• Career ERA under 2.80
• Career WHIP under 1.1
Want your voice heard? Join the Rising Apple team!
When examining deGrom’s career so far and comparing him to shoo-ins for HOF induction, he ranks among the upper echelon among all MLB pitchers in many stats integral to measuring a pitcher’s dominance and effectiveness. It’s not ridiculous to suggest that with a couple more excellent seasons, he could become the third player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Met.