There has not been more of a hard luck pitcher than Jacob deGrom this season. While he has put up Cy Young-level performances, posting sub-2.00 ERA and striking out more than five times as many batters as he has walked, he pitches for the New York Mets so those great performances have not turned into wins all that often.
The poor defense and lack of run support meant that, heading into today’s outing against the Cincinnati Reds, deGrom only had a record of 5-7 despite that sparking ERA, despite all of those strikeouts, despite the minimal number of walks allowed and despite the fact that — once you controlled for the subpar fielder’s behind him — he’s been arguably the best pitcher in the National League this year. Not many players have done more to help their teams win than deGrom and not many have had so little help in doing it.
Today, however, was different. deGrom was his usual dominant self, tossing six shutout innings, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out ten. The difference: he got a little run support, thanks to five runs when he was the pitcher of record and three more after he left the game with a 5-0 lead. One of those runs came via his own plate patience when he drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning. Others helping deGrom’s cause: Brandon Nimmo, who had two RBI doubles and knocked in three in all and Austin Jackson, who hit two RBI doubles and singled in a third run himself.
With that, deGrom was awarded his sixth win of the season and his first since June 18, when it was still technically spring. He also lowered his ERA to 1.77, helping his already strong argument for the NL Cy Young Award, even if he’s unlikely to even notch a dozen wins and may not even get ten if the Mets continue to be the Mets.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?