By Michael Porter
While the New York Mets have not experienced much success as a team over the past few seasons, the same can not be said about one of their star players.
In 2018, Jacob DeGrom quietly had one of the best seasons of all time for a starting pitcher. The pristine 1.70 earned run average that he posted in his 217 innings of work was the lowest in baseball and his miniscule 0.4 HR/9 (home runs allowed per nine innings) showed his mastery of pitches during a time when the home run numbers in baseball are rapidly increasing. While DeGrom deservedly took home CY Young honors for this brilliant season, there were a few public arguments against him winning the award. Baseball traditionalists could not get past the fact that the ace of the Mets’ staff only won ten ball games in 2018, and lost nine of them. Despite his 10-9 record, DeGrom was undoubtedly the most dominant pitcher in baseball in 2018, so how much value can we associate with wins?
Statistics such as the 41 earned runs scored against DeGrom and his league leading 218 ERA+ suggest that his lack of wins may have been a fluke. Mike Ammodio of 103.9 FM’s “Sportsbreak” referred to the use of traditional statistics in player analysis as “judging a book by its cover” and further supported that claim when he stated that “while traditional stats are important, they only indicate the raw results. The new school stats are the “who what when where why how” of how those results came to be and can help break down a player’s performance better.”
ERA+, better known as adjusted earned run average, is a statistic that takes the earned run average of a pitcher and produces a number based on external factors like the ballpark of the athlete and the opponents he faced. In other words, many of DeGrom’s 2018 starts came against powerful offensive divisional opponents like Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta. While his 1.70 ERA is impressive, his 218 ERA+ is even more impressive when you consider the opponents that he most frequently faced.
Another statistic that many baseball fans may not consider is FIP (fielding independent pitching). While the average fan may overlook this stat, the voters that awarded DeGrom the 2018 CY Young Award surely had it in mind. In 2018, DeGrom’s 1.98 FIP was the best in the entire sport. Fangraphs.com defines this statistic as what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. ERA is an accurate indicator of how many runs were scored while a pitcher is on the mound, however FIP may be a more reliable number when trying to determine how well a pitcher individually performed. This statistic removes the role of defense and focuses solely on what the pitcher can control (i.e walks, strikeouts, hit by pitch and home runs allowed). For DeGrom to post such a low FIP during his initial CY Young campaign, he would have had to have been one of the game’s most individually dominant pitchers.
The 2018 season that Jacob DeGrom produces was undoubtedly one for the history books. While his 2019 season was similarly dominant, (and saw him take home a second consecutive CY Young Award) his numbers were a little bit better in the more “attractive” departments. While DeGrom’s 11 victories leave much to be desired, both Met fans and baseball fans know that figure was largely due to the absence of offense during his tremendous outings. For those who are not Mets fans, and didn’t watch DeGrom take the hill every fifth day in 2019, his league leading 255 strikeouts and miniscule 2.43 earned run average adequately illustrate his unmatched dominance.