Third Cy Young 'definitely still a goal' for deGrom

July 6th, 2020

NEW YORK -- All told, 11 Major League pitchers have won consecutive Cy Young Awards, including last season. Of those, only two -- Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux -- extended their streaks to three in a row (and both went on to win four straight).

deGrom now has a chance to join that most elite group, but to do so, he’ll need to prove he’s the best in the National League over 60 games -- not the usual 162.

“I don’t think it would feel the same,” deGrom said, “but it’s definitely still a goal.”

Competing for an award over roughly one-third of a typical regular season introduces all sorts of complicating factors. To start, it’s a lot easier to catch fire over nine weeks than six months; theoretically, a deeper pool of pitchers will compete for this year’s NL Cy Young Award given that it won’t require durability over 30-plus starts.

Had last year’s race ended after the first nine weeks of the season, for example, deGrom almost certainly would have finished behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Luis Castillo and others in the voting. Two years ago, Scherzer would have given him much stiffer competition.

On both occasions, those pitchers and others faded down the stretch as deGrom grew stronger, posting a 1.54 ERA the past two Septembers to pull away in the races. His ability not just to succeed, but to thrive after eclipsing 180 innings is what allowed him to enter baseball’s stratosphere.

This year, deGrom won’t have a chance to do that. One poor stretch, like he endured in suffering three consecutive losses last April, could upend his chances of winning a third straight NL Cy Young Award.

“Hopefully, I got those two or three bad starts out in the bullpen sessions at home,” deGrom said. “Hopefully, [I’ll] get off to a good start and keep it rolling and eliminate the bad ones.”

At home in DeLand, Fla., during the coronavirus shutdown, deGrom threw to his father regularly off flat ground as he does every offseason. Unlike in the winter, he also incorporated bullpen sessions, pitching to Mets catching prospect Patrick Mazeika at nearby Stetson University. Due to that work, deGrom reported to Mets camp last week feeling strong, with plans on stretching out to 85 pitches by his final Summer Camp tune-up in mid-July. That should allow him to throw up to 100 on Opening Day.

After deGrom threw live batting practice to several Mets hitters over the weekend, manager Luis Rojas raved that he looked in “midseason form,” which is exactly where deGrom needs to be if he wants to win a third straight Cy Young Award. Already, the 32-year-old deGrom has lost three months of his prime -- no small thing for a pitcher approaching the outskirts of a Hall of Fame-caliber career arc.

“That’s what I think as far as players, it really stinks with what happened,” deGrom said. “It’s a very unfortunate situation throughout the world of this whole virus, but as a player, you have a short window to perform and be competitive. … I guess you take it from the All-Star break on and just go out there and do all you can do and hopefully maybe win another.”

It wouldn’t be the same, but it would still be sweet. What would feel the same, deGrom clarified, is winning a World Series. The prerequisites for an individual award may have changed, but the difficulty of jelling as a team has not. If anything, that has only grown more difficult as teams hold each other accountable for COVID-19 protocols so that they all can continue to take the field.

“That’s a team coming together under these circumstances and figuring out a way to win,” deGrom said. “I think that is a team effort that would take everybody honestly kind of following these guidelines to staying healthy and being able to stay on the field. I think that’s something that you would definitely celebrate.”