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Jacob deGrom’s tough-luck season should end with a Cy Young

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The Mets have given deGrom no help, even actively hurting him, but he’s been so good that it barely matters.

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Jacob deGrom is having an historically great season but the New York Mets ace doesn’t have the win-loss record to show for it. He is still worthy of the National League Cy Young Award, wins be damned.

deGrom has a minuscule 1.78 ERA on the season, which leads the majors, a number bested just three times in the last two decades.

He ranks second in the NL in both strikeouts (251) and innings (202), behind Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer in both. Aaron Nola of the Phillies is second in ERA (2.42). Those two are deGrom’s chief competition for the Cy Young Award.

Adjusted ERA+ accounts for park factors and compares to the rest of the league, where 100 is average and anything over 100 is above-average, and anything under 100 is below-average. deGrom’s ERA+ in 2018 is a whopping 208. In the modern era (1901-present), only 36 pitchers have posted at least a 200 ERA+.

deGrom has held opponents to three or fewer runs in his last 27 starts, the longest single-season streak in MLB history, per Elias. His 22 consecutive quality starts — six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs — tied a record for a single season, joining Bob Gibson (1968) and Chris Carpenter (2005).

deGrom leads the majors in ERA, FIP (2.05), in slugging percentage allowed (.288) and tops the NL in OPS against (.540). He also tops all pitchers in Wins Above Replacement, the FanGraphs version (8.0) and ranks second to Nola in the Baseball-Reference version (8.6).

Yet he only has eight actual wins.

“I want to win every baseball game I throw, but it hasn’t gone that way this year for me,” deGrom said Sunday after a no-decision against the Red Sox, a game the Mets lost despite 12 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing three runs. That counts as a bad start for deGrom these days.

The win-loss record

deGrom after Sunday’s start, his 13th no-decision of the year, has an 8-9 record on the year. Baseball has become far more accepting of metrics other than pitcher wins to evaluate pitchers in recent years, but deGrom winning would truly cement that change.

The fewest wins by a Cy Young winning starter is 13, by Felix Hernandez in 2010 with the Seattle Mariners. Voters rewarded Hernandez leading the league in both ERA (2.27) and innings pitched (249⅔). Fernando Valenzuela also had 13 wins in his Cy season of 1981, but a strike wiped out a third of that campaign.

deGrom might have just two starts remaining, making it entirely possible he could be the first starting pitcher with an under-.500 record to win the Cy Young Award. Hernandez was just 13-12 in 2010, but every other Cy-winning starting pitcher in a non-strike year has been at least eight games over .500.

Eric Gagne won the NL Cy Young with a 2-3 record in 2003, the only pitcher with a losing record in a Cy season, but he was also 55-for-55 in save opportunities and had a 1.20 ERA. It’s nowhere near the same situation as deGrom.

No support

For a team that reached the World Series as recently as 2015 and made the Wild Card Game one year later, the Mets recently have provided a master class of letting people down, whether it’s through meddling ownership, front office dysfunction, cryptic handling and communication of injuries, or angering prospects. But they have let deGrom down most of all.

How does one of the most dominant pitching seasons in recent memory have a losing record? New York scoring two or fewer runs in 30 of his starts is a big reason.

deGrom has eight different starts this season of at least seven innings while allowing zero or one run and not getting a win, tied for the most in the last 111 seasons with Roger Craig of the expansion New York Mets in 1963.

Giving up no runs or one run in seven innings is dominance. MLB teams that have a pitcher deliver that in 2018 are 390-101 (.794). The starters themselves in those games have recorded 346 wins, or in 70% of the games. deGrom has won just three times in his 11 such starts.

Opposing starting pitchers against deGrom have a 2.38 ERA in 162⅓ innings. That would rank second in the National League. To deGrom.

The Mets are just 12-18 in games deGrom starts. That’s criminal.

What’s next?

deGrom still has a pair of arbitration-eligible seasons before he hits free agency. During the all-star break he said he would like to stay with the Mets long term.

“If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now,” deGrom’s agent Brodie Van Wagenen added, “The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”

deGrom added, “It’s something that is kind of in the Mets’ control.”

After a stellar season like this, the price for deGrom keeps rising. Just imagine how expensive he will get if he wins the Cy Young Award.