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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 7: Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young Award with only ten wins

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Once upon a time the Cy Young Award was reserved for guys with 20 wins or more. Ok, maybe 18 is you were really good, but don’t push it, buster. Anyone much below that need not have applied.

In the last 15 years or so, however, people (i.e. awards voters) have come to realize that pitcher wins is not a great measure of pitching excellence. Indeed, it’s quite a poor one given how whether a pitcher wins or loses is super dependent upon how one’s teammates’ hit. A guy can win a game is he allows seven runs in five innings if his lineup scores eight. A guy can lose a game if he gives up a single run over nine innings if his teammates score none. Wins are, in very significant ways out of a pitcher’s hands.

In light of that, the Cy Young voters have, at least on a couple of occasions, given out the hardware to guys with lower-than-usual win totals.  Tim Lincecum won 15 en route to the NL Cy Young in 2009 with the Giants thanks to his leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts and complete games. The next year Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award with only 13 wins — and 12 losses — because it was clear, based on his ERA, his innings pitched and his overall stinginess in allowing base runners that he was the best pitcher in the league that year.

Certainly, though, 13 wins was as low as Cy Young voters would go, right? Nah, Jacob deGrom won the NL Cy Young Award this year despite only notching ten wins. And, like Lincecum and Hernandez before him, he won it quite deservingly.

deGrom put up a best-in-baseball 1.70 ERA along with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks over 217 innings. deGrom and Zack Greinke (1.66 in 2015) are the only pitchers to post a 1.70 ERA or lower dating back to 1996. Before that it ben done only four other times since the lowered the pitcher’s mound and shrunk the strike zone in 1969: twice by Greg Maddux (1994-95), once by Dwight Gooden (1985), and once by Nolan Ryan (1981).

To the extent any of you folks still hung up on win totals are bothered by this, know that the voting for the award wasn’t even close. deGrom almost won the award unanimously, in fact, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes. Aside from the numbers themselves, those voters no doubt tracked the progress of the New York Mets in 2018 and realized that deGrom pitched in the worst luck possible, start after start after start. Over the course of the season the Mets lost 17 deGrom starts in which he allowed three runs or less. His run support on the year — 3.53 runs per game — was the absolute worst among qualified starters in the National League.

deGrom may have one won ten games in 2018, but he earned all ten of those wins and deserved a hell of a lot more of them. He not only should’ve won the Cy Young Award, he should have members of the Mets 2018 lineup come to his house every Saturday to polish the dang thing for the next year.

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

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As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.