Now that Jacob deGrom’s rookie season is complete, let’s put it into its proper place in Mets history.
From a Mets standpoint, it was really good.
New York Mets
The Mets have had four pitchers finish either first or second in the rookie of the year balloting: Tom Seaver (won in 1967), Jerry Koosman (runner-up in 1968), Jon Matlack (won in 1972) and Dwight Gooden (won in 1984).
DeGrom wasn’t quite in their class, but it seems fair to say he was the next-best thing to them.
He finishes tied with Jason Isringhausen for the sixth-best single-season WAR by a Mets rookie pitcher. The pitchers ahead of him are the four we mentioned and Jae Seo, who was a hair better at 3.2 in 2003.
Similarly, he’s sixth-best among all Mets rookies with at least 100 innings (there have been 36 of them) pitched in ERA at 2.63 and ERA+, which attempts to even out the numbers based on how good offenses were at the time and accounting for primary ballpark.
There were a couple of numbers for which deGrom ranked among the team’s elite.
His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings and .609 opponents’ OPS each rank second-best among that group of 36, trailing only Dwight Gooden’s 11.4 and .545.
deGrom also won fans over with his hitting. He hit .217 and is one of four Mets rookie pitchers to have at least a .200 batting average with more than 35 plate appearances in his rookie season, along with Gooden (fourth at .200) and the top two of Rick Aguilera (.278 in 1985) and Mark Bomback (.233 in 1980)
As deGrom’s season evolved, he morphed into a pitcher with ace-like qualities. He was 9-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, with only two home runs allowed in his final 15 starts.
In those outings he allowed a total of 24 runs, posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 110 to 25, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, went 28 innings without allowing an earned run, and tied Jim Deshaies’ modern major-league record by striking out the first eight batters of a game.
How he won
DeGrom’s season turned after getting rocked for 12 hits and six earned runs in a June 16 loss to the Cardinals that dropped his record to 0-4 and raised his ERA to 4.39.
What evolved for deGrom? Here are the key points:
Lowest ERA since June 17
He attacked the strike zone more often. His rate of pitches thrown inside the zone went from 45 percent through that Cardinals start to 51 percent after.
He increased the use of his curveball (from about six per game to 11 per game) and threw it with a high level of effectiveness (74 percent strikes).
He mixed up his pitch location when he was in favorable situations. Through the Cardinals start, he had 11 strikeouts on pitches in the upper half of the zone, 23 in the lower half of the zone. After the Cardinals start, the ratio was a more even 53 in the upper half to 57 in the lower half.
Opponents couldn’t square him up. His hard-hit contact rate was almost 15 percent in his first seven starts, but only 11 percent in his last 15. His ground ball rate jumped from 39 percent to 51 percent over those same stretches.
In fact, they had trouble making any sort of contact. Since June 17, opponents have put only 33 percent of their swings against deGrom into play, the second-best rate among starting pitchers.
The leader in that stat over that time? Near-certain Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
Did You Know?
Perhaps the best thing for a Mets fan (particularly an optimistic one) to remember heading into the awards season is this: Remember those four Mets pitchers atop this article who finished either first or second in the rookie of the year balloting? All four pitched in a World Series for the team within two years of winning the award.