deGrom's consistency makes him NL ROY favorite
NEW YORK -- Imagine back in March, when Jacob deGrom sat buried on the Mets' depth chart behind Dillon Gee and Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler and Bartolo Colon and Jenrry Mejia and (deep breath) Daisuke Matsuzaka and Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, believing deGrom could win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Crazy, right? And yet here we stand in mid-November, moments from tonight's announcement, and it seems implausible that anyone other than deGrom will win it.
With a respectful nod to Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, who provided more than his share of must-see moments on the bases and in the field, and to fellow finalist Kolten Wong of the Cardinals, it was deGrom who compiled the NL's most consistent and most impressive rookie resume. If he had to compete with American League candidate Jose Abreu, deGrom would not be the prohibitive favorite. But he does not, and so he is, with the Baseball Writers' Association of America set to reveal the winner at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network with additional coverage on MLB.com.
The announcement promised a fair bit of drama until deGrom squelched it with his final five starts, going 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA and more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings. That brought his season line to 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 144 whiffs in 140 1/3 innings, solidifying his place amongst the game's elite. Had deGrom's team-imposed innings limit not prevented him from qualifying for the ERA title, he would have finished eighth behind Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Doug Fister, Cole Hamels, Henderson Alvarez and Jordan Zimmermann.
That deGrom essentially came out of nowhere to achieve all this won't factor into the voting, though it does make for a strong narrative. An afterthought heading into Spring Training, he was supposed to debut in May as a reliever. Instead, Gee's lat injury forced him into the rotation, where deGrom shut down the Yankees, continued pitching well and ultimately beat out Montero to remain in the rotation.
"We had an injury and now we can't get him out of the rotation," manager Terry Collins said recently. "It looks like he's going to be in it for a long time."
Perhaps most impressive was what happened next. deGrom stumbled a bit in June, giving up 13 runs over one 15-inning stretch, then succumbed to arm trouble in August. But he rebounded from both issues to submit two of the better stretches of his season. During one September start, deGrom struck out each of the first eight batters he faced in a row.
Compare that to the NL's other two Rookie of the Year Award finalists. Perhaps the odds-on favorite heading into the season, Hamilton populated highlight reels for much of the year, batting .300 with 39 steals during one 85-game stretch from April 15 to July 25. But Hamilton was inconsistent, hitting .197 from July 26 through the end of the season and getting caught on more than half his stolen-base attempts over that stretch.
Wong, by comparison, did his best work in the playoffs, hitting three home runs in eight games for the Cardinals. But BBWAA voters submitted their ballots before the postseason began, and Wong's regular season was pedestrian: a .249/.292/.388 slash line in 113 games.
Of the three finalists, only deGrom proved exceptional for a prolonged period of time. Only deGrom's resume lacks noticeable weaknesses.
As a result, only deGrom can call himself the NL Rookie of the Year Award favorite.
"Billy's had a tremendous year," Collins said. "He came, certainly, with high credentials and has lived up to pretty much everything everybody has talked about. We're just extremely proud with the way Jake's gone about his job. Certainly, no matter what happens when those ballots are cast, he's had an outstanding year for a guy who's off the radar.
"What he's done, it is truly remarkable. I understand what a year Billy's had and what a year Kolten Wong has had. But I don't know if they're as good as my guy's been this year."