Jacob DeGrom is quickly emerging as the favorite for the NL MVP. The New York Mets ace is redefining pitching in 2021. The headline numbers are the 6-2 record with a 0.56 ERA. Moreover, DeGrom has plated more runs with the bat than he has surrendered on the mound. DeGrom is the first pitcher since 1901 to strike out 100 batters while only allowing 26 hits in 10 games. He is dominating the MLB in a year where the pitchers hold all the advantages. The 32-year-old is the best pitcher in baseball, and he is chasing history in 2021. It’s time to examine what makes DeGrom so special.
The Ultimate Power Pitcher
In an era laden with 100mph flamethrowers, DeGrom is the undisputed high-heat pitcher. So far this season, he is averaging 98.6mph while he can max it out at 102mph on his four-seam fastball. What separates Degrom from other pitchers is his remarkable control. He can attack all quadrants with enough movement and speed to knock off a batter’s timing. DeGrom fires his heater into the zone over 50% of the time. He blows batters away with economic mechanics, speed and spin. The fastball is the foundation of DeGrom’s greatness.
If the fastball is the stiff-right jab in DeGrom’s repertoire, then the slider and changeup are the one-two combination to the body. DeGrom imparts over 2000 revolutions from his hand on the slider. DeGrom’s slider has 28.8 inches of vertical drop, which is an increase of 2.1 from last year. DeGrom allies his spin on the slider with extraordinary accuracy. He attacks a left-handed batter’s back foot while he looks to slide it away from right-handers. He peppers the bottom corner with ridiculous precision—the whiff percentage on DeGrom’s slider 57.7, meanwhile the strikeout percentage on that pitch is 62.5. DeGrom makes batters look foolish with the slider.
DeGrom flips the script on his changeup. He attacks the right-hander’s back foot and takes it away from the left-handers. He will impart less spin on this pitch, although he only throws 40% of this pitch in the zone. Instead, DeGrom utilizes a ton of movement to expand the strike zone. DeGrom’s changeup has over 30 inches of vertical drop and 14.3 inches of break. The slugging percentage off this pitch is a meagre .0.87, and the batting average is an even lower 0.43. DeGrom is shutting batters down for good with his off-speed pitches.
The Mind Games
Bullet Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were all dominant pitchers. All those pitchers possessed the intangibles; they were the most dangerous cowboys in the saloon. Batters feared those pitchers; the 2021 hitters fear Jacob DeGrom. The Cy-Young candidate is executing his skills at the highest level, and his confidence on the mound is irrepressible. Batters are stepping into the box against DeGrom already down in the count.
It’s no surprise then that batters have swung and missed at DeGrom’s pitches at an alarming 40.7%. The league average is 24.9%.
Over the last three years, we’ve witnessed Jacob DeGrom construct an epitaph of pitching excellence. So far, in 2021, DeGrom is applying the finishing touches to his masterpiece. The Mets ace could sweep the list of awards come the end of the season. Pitchers often get compared to Golfers or Tennis players because the individuality of these roles lends itself to those comparisons. Well, to put it in Golfing parlance, DeGrom is in the Jack Nicklaus/Tiger Woods style zone. We are watching an athlete on top of his game, he is by far the best pitcher in baseball, and he might be the best sportsperson in all of America.