As Mets fans, we have been lucky enough to witness some very good pitching seasons in recent memory. R.A. Dickey had a magical ride in 2012. Matt Harvey’s 2013 season was historic. Noah Syndergaard probably should have won the Cy Young in 2016.
None of them can even be considered in the same galaxy as Jacob deGrom’s 2018 season.
This wasn’t just one of those seasons that Mets fans will remember in a few years and look back on fondly like we do with Harvey and Syndergaard. This is one of those seasons that baseball fans everywhere will still be talking about in 25 years. This is peak Doc Gooden territory. Hell, Ron Darling, who pitched in the same rotation as Gooden, said deGrom’s year was the best pitching season he’s ever seen.
There has been a parade of stats thrown around about deGrom’s season and how historic it has been. For me, though, one stat in particular tells the story of Jake’s season quite well. FIP, for what it’s worth, is far from an all-encompassing stat. It is flawed, and is very far from being any sort of end-all be-all indicator of anything. That said, I think it provides a great context for what we just witnessed:
deGrom finished the season with a FIP of 1.98. Since 2000, only two other qualified starting pitchers have finished with a FIP below 2.00, and both of their names are Clayton Kershaw. Only one of Kershaw’s seasons was better than 1.98.
Going back even further to when they lowered the mound in 1969, deGrom’s FIP this season is outdone by only four other pitchers:
1999 Pedro Martinez (1.39)
1984 Dwight Gooden (1.69)
2014 Clayton Kershaw (1.81)
1971 Tom Seaver (1.93)
Yes, he was that good.
As far as league-adjusted FIP goes, well, deGrom’s FIP- going into last night’s game was 50, and it dropped to 49. That means deGrom’s FIP- this season is bested only by guys named Pedro and Randy since 1969.
This was truly one of the best pitching seasons any of us will probably ever see. There may never be another one like it.
And last night, deGrom capped it all off with one of the most poetic, poignant, storybook endings anyone could have hoped for in this lost season. Commanding his mound, deGrom fired eight shutout innings, racking up 10 strikeouts while allowing no walks and two hits in front of a sparse-but-raucous home crowd.
deGrom looked at least quasi-human in the first two innings, allowing leadoff hits in both of them. But after the leadoff single in the second, deGrom grabbed ahold of this game and took ownership of it. He retired the last 20 batters he faced in order. Half of those batters were retired on strikeouts. The only time a runner secured first base against him after the second inning was when Ronald Acuña reached first on a dropped third strike, but was then tagged out after rounding first. That’s it.
As far as deGrom’s run support goes, he predictably didn’t get much, but he got enough this time. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning, when the Mets finally broke through for their “Ace of Aces.” Dom Smith punched an RBI single up the middle to get the Mets on the board. After deGrom had left the game in the eighth, they added some insurance. Michael Conforto hit a solo shot all the way to to Ike Davis territory on the Shea Bridge to make it 2-0, and then Smith added a solo homer of his own to extend the lead to 3-0.
Before deGrom left, though, his final two innings were particularly electrifying, as everyone in the ballpark sensed that he was nearing the completion of his masterpiece campaign. This was possibly the most exciting any Mets game has been all season. The fans in the ballpark grasped the moment, those at home felt it and of course Gary Cohen could sense it as well. Words can’t really describe how captivating this night became, so I’ll leave it to the video:
News flash: This guy's good. pic.twitter.com/NeeMHtbdOe
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 27, 2018
deGrom struck out 1,000th batter of his career to cap off his legendary season. He walked off the mound to a rousing ovation, smiling and proud, with a palpable sense of accomplishment. He was met in the dugout by a giddy Captain, and the two shared embrace that has already been immortalized and will live forever.
Back in July, I wrote this:
“..whenever deGrom starts next…don’t think about the trade rumors. Don’t think about how bad the team is. If that means you have to stay off social media, then so be it. But just sit down and watch one of the best pitchers in the world on the top of his game, mastering his craft. And just enjoy it. You’ll be so much happier.”
I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope it made you happy.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
David Wright said he’d “love” to be a part of the front office next year.
The series finale between the Mets and Braves takes place tonight at 7:10. Jason Vargas does battle against Juilo Teheran.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports