NEW YORK -- At some point over the past two seasons, Jacob deGrom leveled up. Already one of baseball's best pitchers, deGrom became one of the best of his generation, with all the requisite hardware to prove it.
deGrom added to that collection on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America made the Mets right-hander the 11th pitcher in Major League history to win consecutive Cy Young Awards. For the second straight year, deGrom received 29 of a possible 30 first-place votes in the National League, this time toppling runners-up Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers, who received the other first-place vote, and Max Scherzer of the Nationals.
“Words can’t express it,” deGrom said, learning of his victory from his home in Deland, Fla. “I said it was a dream to win one, but to win back to back, honestly, I’m kind of speechless right now.”
Unlike 2018, deGrom endured a rocky beginning to his '19 season, posting a 4.85 ERA in April while losing his last three starts of the month and, in his mind, focusing a bit too much on the idea of improving upon his Cy Young season. Then, he relaxed. Everything clicked. From May 1 forward, deGrom was the NL’s best pitcher, going 9-5 with a 2.07 ERA over his last 27 starts.
“I feel like I was trying to better what I did in 2018,” said deGrom, who finished 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA, up more than half a run from the previous season. “And then, once I had those three starts that weren’t so good -- that were terrible, actually -- I kind of got back to my mindset of 2018. … I didn’t let much bother me.”
As late in the season as early September, both Scherzer and Ryu still presented legitimate challenges in the Cy Young race. But while Scherzer battled injuries and Ryu struggled to stay consistent, deGrom finished the season with 23 consecutive scoreless innings. In his final four starts, he went 3-0 with 35 strikeouts, two walks and a 0.32 ERA. He led the NL with 255 strikeouts, trailing only Ryu in ERA.
“It’s something that when I first came up,” deGrom said, “if you had asked me that or told me that this was going to happen, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.”
With another Cy Young, deGrom enters rarified air in both the present-day game as well as Mets history. He became the third NL pitcher this decade to win consecutive Cy Young Awards, joining the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (2013-14) and Scherzer (2016-17). deGrom also became the 20th pitcher to win multiple Cy Youngs.
“I think that Jake is, from my vantage point, the best pitcher in baseball,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said at this week's General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I think that Jake is steady, and he’s consistent with his mindset. I don’t think at any point that I had concern that Jake would be able to rebound [from] a couple of unsteady starts and return to Cy Young form.”
In New York, deGrom further cemented his status as one of the four most accomplished pitchers in franchise lore, alongside Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Jerry Koosman. Seaver, a Hall of Famer, already has his number retired at Citi Field; Koosman will join him next summer, while Gooden could in the years to come.
As for deGrom, he is under guaranteed contract for four more seasons, and team control for five. He has spoken often about his desire to be with the Mets for life, which became possible once he signed a $137.5 million deal in March.
“I’m sure if you would have asked those guys when they were playing, it would have been kind of the same mindset of always trying to figure out a way to get better and help your team win,” deGrom said. “For me, looking at winning two Cy Youngs, I was looking at the list of guys who have done that in consecutive seasons. … Being mentioned with the names on those lists, both in Major League history and Mets history, is truly an honor.”