Wins don't tell story of Jacob deGrom's fabulous season

BySarah Langs via ESPN logo
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
ESPN

The Cy Young Award is given to the best pitcher in each league. Voting for the 2018 National League award winner might codify how pitchers are assessed to be "the best" in this day and age of baseball analysis.

Pitcher wins are no longer considered the be-all, end-all in terms of pitching stats, or even the second-most important along with ERA. There are far more ways to evaluate pitchers today. And if New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom wins the NL award Wednesday, it will be clear those other metrics have come to the forefront.

The fewest wins by any starting pitcher to win the Cy Young Award is 13 -- Fernando Valenzuela went 13-7 in 25 starts in 1981 and Felix Hernandez went 13-12 in 34 starts in 2010. DeGrom went 10-9 this season.

The Mets went 14-18 in deGrom's starts. The lowest team winning percentage in a Cy Young winner's starts was .500 when the Mariners went 17-17 in Hernandez's starts in 2010.

DeGrom had an MLB-best 1.70 ERA. The White Sox's Lucas Giolito had a 6.13 ERA, which was the worst in the league by a lot (the next-worst by a qualified starting pitcher was 5.45 by Dylan Bundy). But Giolito went 10-13, and the White Sox were 14-18 in his starts. So despite the enormous gap in their ERAs, deGrom and Giolito had the same number of wins in the same number of starts, and their teams had the same record in games they started.

But in just about every category other than wins, deGrom distanced himself from Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola and the rest of the field. DeGrom didn't have Scherzer's 300 strikeouts, but he had 269, becoming the third Mets pitcher with a 250-K season, joining Tom Seaver (three times) and Dwight Gooden (twice).

DeGrom's posting a 1.70 ERA over 217 innings was the eighth instance of a pitcher with at least 150 innings pitched finishing the season with an ERA of 1.70 or lower since the Cy Young was first awarded in 1956. Only two of those pitchers did not win the Cy Young: Zack Greinke in 2015 (1.66 ERA; award won by Jake Arrieta with a 1.77 ERA) and Luis Tiant in 1968 (1.60 ERA; award won by Denny McLain, 1.96 ERA).

DeGrom is only the second pitcher since earned runs became an official stat in both leagues in 1913 with a sub-2.00 ERA, at least 250 Ks and fewer than 50 walks in a season, joining Pedro Martinez in 2000.

Only six previous times since the mound was lowered in 1969 did a pitcher finish with a sub-2.00 ERA and 250 strikeouts. Five of the previous six times, the pitcher went on to win the Cy Young that season. The one who didn't was Seaver in 1971.

DeGrom had a 2.13 ERA in starts that the Mets lost. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, since the earned run became an official stat, no pitcher had ever had an ERA of 2.35 or lower in the starts his team lost for a full season (minimum 15 such starts). Before deGrom, the low in such instances was Roger Clemens with a 2.37 ERA for the Astros in 2005.

DeGrom had a 2.71 ERA in the nine starts in which he was charged with a loss. According to Elias, the last time a pitcher had an ERA of 2.75 or lower in starts in which he got the loss (minimum eight such starts) was in 1968, when Bob Gibson had a 2.14 ERA and Sam McDowell had a 2.34 ERA.

DeGrom made nine starts this season of at least six innings in which he gave up no more than one run and did not get the win. That's the most such starts in a season in MLB history, according to Elias.

And what about the consistency? DeGrom had a 24-start stretch in which he went at least six innings and gave up three runs or fewer. According to Elias, that's the longest such single-season streak in MLB history.

How does deGrom match up with Scherzer and Nola, the other two finalists?

DeGrom's 1.70 ERA was 0.83 better than Scherzer's (2.53) and 0.67 better than Nola's (2.37).

His .277 slugging percentage allowed was .055 better than Scherzer's (.332) and .034 better than Nola's (.311).

The 35.3 percent chase rate deGrom induced was 5.3 percentage points better than Nola's (30.0 percent) and 3.3 percentage points better than Scherzer's (32.0 percent).

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