NEW YORK -- When Mets manager Mickey Callaway proclaimed in early September that no candidate for the National League Cy Young Award had been “near as good” as Jacob deGrom, the opinion seemed a bit premature. To be sure, deGrom was enjoying a fine encore to his 2018 campaign. But
NEW YORK -- When Mets manager Mickey Callaway proclaimed in early September that no candidate for the National League Cy Young Award had been “near as good” as Jacob deGrom, the opinion seemed a bit premature. To be sure, deGrom was enjoying a fine encore to his 2018 campaign. But strong arguments existed for both the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu, who spent much of the summer leading the NL in ERA, and the Nationals' Max Scherzer, whose rate stats were better than deGrom’s at the time.
Callaway may have simply been hyping his guy, but perhaps he knew something the rest of the league didn’t. In the weeks following those comments, deGrom made four additional starts, allowing one run over a combined 28 innings. He struck out 35. He walked two. He punctuated it all with seven shutout innings Wednesday in the Mets’ 10-3 win over the Marlins at Citi Field, ending his season with a second consecutive NL Cy Young Award well within reach.
No Mets pitcher -- not Tom Seaver, not Dwight Gooden, not Jerry Koosman or anyone -- has won two straight Cy Young Awards. deGrom could be a month and a half away from becoming the first.
“That would mean a lot,” deGrom said. “Considering Seaver and Gooden and those guys who pitched here, that would be a huge honor.”
It is something that seemed implausible early this season, when deGrom posted a 4.85 ERA in April and held a 3.98 ERA as late as May 21. From that point forward, however, deGrom led the Majors with a 1.89 ERA, passing everyone but Ryu in that category. And he could still leapfrog the Dodgers lefty, who owns a 6.55 ERA over his last six starts.
deGrom also leads the NL with 255 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP, is first in every major variation of pitcher WAR and second with 204 innings.
“I’ve looked at the numbers,” Callaway said. “I don’t see how it can go any other way.”
deGrom’s final act was a seven-inning masterpiece against the Marlins. After allowing a baserunner in each of the first three frames, deGrom retired the final 14 batters he faced to extend his scoreless-innings streak to 23. He joined Seaver and Gooden as the only Mets to strike out at least 250 batters in consecutive seasons, and moved alongside Gooden, Greg Maddux and Clayton Kershaw as the only pitchers in the last half-century to post a sub-2.10 ERA over a two-year span.
“It’s just his ability, no matter what is going on around him, to focus on what he does, and not let anything affect him,” Callaway said. “He’s unwavering in that regard. It’s a special trait, and it leads to Cy Youngs.”
Had the Mets been in postseason contention, they would have considered starting deGrom one last time Sunday on short rest. Because they are not, deGrom’s season is complete.
Baseball Writers’ of Association of America voters will cast their Cy Young Award ballots before the start of the playoffs, with the winner to be revealed in mid-November.
Within the Mets’ clubhouse, most consider that a mere formality.
“He’s 'Bigtime Jake,'” first baseman Pete Alonso said. “When stuff’s on the line, whether it’s individually or the team, he steps up. If there are questions about him winning the Cy Young, I think tonight’s a pretty tell-tale sign. He’s our ace, and he’s been absolutely stellar all year.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.