deGrom runaway NL Cy Young Award winner

November 15th, 2018

NEW YORK -- In the end, it wasn't close.
A summer full of hand-wringing about wins and losses, the value of pitcher WAR and the nature of run prevention seemed a distant memory on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America crowned the National League Cy Young Award winner in a blowout. Garnering 207 points to Max Scherzer's 123, deGrom became the sixth Cy Young winner in Mets history.
:: NL Cy Young Award voting totals ::
"I think it kind of set in on the drive over, like, 'Hey, they're about to announce the Cy Young,' " said deGrom, who commuted from his hometown of DeLand, Fla., to Orlando for the award reveal. "I've said before that this was one of my goals. The team didn't end up where we wanted to be this past season, but you set personal goals. Being able to accomplish something that's a dream of yours is just something special."
As they have increasingly done in Cy Young races throughout the past decade, BBWAA voters largely ignored deGrom's 10-9 record in awarding him 29 out of a possible 30 first-place votes. Scherzer, who won the previous two NL Cy Young Awards, received one first-place tally, while of the Phillies finished third with 86 total points. Colorado's , Arizona's and four others also received votes.
None of them came close to approaching deGrom, whose 1.70 ERA was the sixth-best in baseball since MLB lowered the pitcher's mound to its current height in 1969. Although deGrom's 10-9 record was pedestrian, he led the NL in ERA, all major versions of WAR and several other key run-prevention categories. He finished second to Scherzer in strikeouts and innings, pulling away from his rival by going 5-3 with a 1.49 ERA in August and September.
It was a finish that at one time seemed unlikely for deGrom, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, who missed his Opening Day assignment due to physical concerns. Five weeks later, deGrom hyperextended his right elbow, then endured a turbulent, one-inning start in his return that set him well behind the league's Cy Young pace-setters.
It did not matter. From that point forward, deGrom transformed into the best pitcher in baseball, recording a Major League-record 24 consecutive quality starts and 29 straight outings of three runs or fewer. Had his offense and bullpen not routinely betrayed him, deGrom might have locked up the Cy Young Award in August.

"His consistency and competitiveness were unmatched," his former agent and current general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, said in a statement.
Added manager Mickey Callaway: "His competitive spirt is unlike anything I've ever seen and simply the best season I've ever witnessed from a pitcher."
Even as his coronation as baseball's best pitcher became increasingly inevitable, deGrom shrugged at the notion that he was doing anything extraordinary. He wanted to win the NL Cy Young Award -- deGrom made that clear. But "when you're doing something," he said after the season, "I don't know if you realize it as much as people watching."
Among those paying attention was a cadre of Cy Young voters who care little for wins, a context-dependent statistic that has become decreasingly important in recent years. Not only has baseball's analytics age offered observers better measures of a pitcher's value, but the change in pitcher usage has also made it more difficult for even elite starters to rack up victories.

To wit: deGrom threw one complete game, averaged 6.8 innings per start and finished with fewer victories than any starter to win baseball's most prestigious pitching award. In his first Cy Young season, Tom Seaver threw 18 complete games and averaged 7.8 innings per start.
Seaver won the award three times with the Mets in the 1970s, starting a tradition that continued with Dwight Gooden in '85, R.A. Dickey in '12 and deGrom in '18. Only the Dodgers, Braves, Phillies and Red Sox have produced more Cy Young winners since the award's inception in 1956.
In many ways, deGrom has more in common with Dickey than Seaver or Gooden. A college shortstop who converted to pitching relatively late in life, deGrom needed a string of circumstances to fall his way just to have a chance with the Mets. As recently as this spring, genuine debate existed as to whether deGrom or was the Mets' ace.
The 2018 season left no doubt.

"The goal of pitching, for me, it's trying to keep the other team from scoring runs," deGrom said. "My goal is to put up zeroes. You feel like you do that, you put your team in a pretty good position to win. I think that was probably the main stat that I was looking at whenever it came down to me [potentially] winning the Cy Young."