Jacob deGrom Looking For his 3rd Cy Young
Jacob deGrom is showing his prowess again and again with more and more records in the 2021 season. The 32-year-old began the season setting an MLB record for most strikeouts in their first four starts with 50. He then threw a complete game shutout with his personal career-high 15 strikeouts. Then, last week, he kept the San Diego Padres scoreless through seven innings and lowered his ERA to 0.62, which is the lowest ERA thrown by any pitcher through nine starts in MLB history.
Despite being in his seventh season in the Majors, spending all of them with the Mets, he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it seems he is only getting better. Neal Heaton, a 1990 All-Star, talked about how good Jacob deGrom was with MLB.com the other day.
“This guy is getting better and better…I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s the best pitcher I’ve ever seen,” Heaton continued, “I mean, he throws a changeup at 92 miles-per-hour. It’s unhittable. You have to guess.”
What’s Jacob DeGrom’s Secret?
As Neal Heaton put it, deGrom is impossible to react to. His command of the ball grants him total control over at-bats. If he is ahead in the count or even, it’s a guessing game to connect the bat to the ball. And, as he ages, he throws faster. It is the opposite of natural development for pitchers. When he started in the majors in 2014, he was throwing his fastball and sinker at around the same speed: 93-94 mph. Now, in 2021, his fastball is averaging out at 99 mph. He’s in the 99th percentile. He won his first Cy Young Award throwing his fastball in the 90th percentile, clocking out at 96 mph.
His changeup is, in the words of Neal Heaton, “unhittable.” He began his pitching career throwing a changeup at a normal speed, maybe a little faster than normal at 85 mph. Now? His changeup clocks out at 92-93, and his slider is just a tad faster than that. When people talk about how 2021 is the year of the strikeout because pitchers are throwing harder and better than ever, deGrom is the face of it.
He isn’t deferring to his secondary pitches more like older pitchers do when they lose velocity on their fastball but start to master the command of their arsenal. In fact, deGrom does not throw a curveball anymore and has replaced it almost entirely with more fastballs. What deGrom has become an expert at, besides throwing the ball near 100 mph on a consistent basis, is hitting his spots up in the zone. He throws across his body, hitting his catcher high in the zone on deGrom’s glove side.
Another Cy Young on the Horizon
Batters continuously miss his fastballs like no other pitcher. So far, in 2021, batters swing and miss on 40% of the fastballs he throws when he hits his spot. On June 11, he showed that speed again against the Padres, striking out ten through six scoreless innings. However, he left that game early after 80 pitches due to right flexor tendonitis. Last month he missed sixteen games, and he’s not worried about this injury, but he’ll be missing at least a start or two before he comes back. There’s no doubt he is performing like a Cy Young award-winning pitcher.
The issue is, will he be able to avoid injuries and maintain that level for the rest of the 2021 season? We’ll see in a few months.