deGrom, Not Harvey, Emerging as Mets Ace

Before the season, everyone was excited for Matt Harvey to reclaim his spot as the Mets’ best pitcher. Jacob deGrom wasn’t going to let that happen. 

In a quiet, emphatic and triumphant campaign to prove his National League Rookie of the Year season was no fluke, Jacob deGrom has taken his game to a new level and asserted himself as the best pitcher on a New York Mets staff that includes Matt Harvey.

Jacob deGrom is doing it all for the Mets during a season in which his team needs him to do exactly that, just his second in the pros. A top-five pitcher in the game right now. A legitimate Cy Young candidate if Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer proves he’s actually from this earth. The unquestioned ace of a Mets staff that’s dripping with potential, and at full strength, could feature potential aces in the hole at every spot with deGrom, Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

May 21, 2015: New York Mets Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) [10741] during a MLB National League game between the  St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. The NY Mets blanked the Cardinals 5-0.

That’s a heck of a role for someone who spent his collegiate career at shortstop.

A relative unknown prior to his promotion to the big leagues last season, deGrom was, at one point, ticketed for the bullpen during his debut season. At that juncture, deGrom was struggling, hadn’t become the pitcher he’s since blossomed into and both Dillon Gee and Daisuke Matsuzaka were deemed superior options. Fast forward to the present and that notion is laughable. Gee is spending time in Triple-A where he hopes to rediscover how to pitch and Matsuzaka is long since departed from Major League Baseball. What a mistake that would have been.

A ninth-round pick in 2010, deGrom has given up more than two earned runs just twice through his first 15 starts. During those starts, he’s with an 8-5 record, 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 100:18 K:BB ratio—better than 5:1 if math isn’t your forte—through 100.1 IP. Eighty percent of his outings have been defined as quality starts, and he’s faced 390 total batters (22nd in MLB) in the process. As a comparison, Scherzer has faced 423 (third), and his teammate Harvey has faced 393 (19). With his 5.56/1 K:BB ratio, deGrom is fifth among starters, and his 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings rank him inside the top 15 pitchers. He’s an absolute lock to represent New York at the All-Star game in Cincinnati when it rolls around in mid-July, and he’s having a season that’s vaulted him to the top of a rotation ahead of Harvey, a seemingly (previously) impossible task in New York City.

Meanwhile, we really still don’t know what type of pitcher Harvey exactly is at this stage of his career despite everyone wanting to crown him the King of New York following a season that concluded almost two full years ago.

On the surface, his 2015 numbers are impressive: 7-5 record, 3.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 96:17 K:BB ratio—better than deGrom’s—through his first 99.1 IP. His 26 starts during an electric 2013 season that saw him compile a 2.27 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with a 191:31 K:BB ratio, including a start at the All-Star game, ended with the announcement that he’d need Tommy John surgery. After sitting out for the entirety of the 2014 season, Harvey has battled some inconsistency while deGrom has remained remarkably consistent. Of Harvey’s 15 starts, he’s given up at least four earned runs in four of those outings, and that includes two separate occasions where he was shelled for seven earned runs, something that hadn’t happened to Harvey previously in his Major League career.

MLB: APR 22 Cardinals at Mets

It’s been brewing for a while on local levels, but now the national photo is starting to come into focus: deGrom is the No. 1 starter on this staff.

This isn’t about slamming Harvey, who is a very talented pitcher whom the Mets are fortunate to have and could very well re-emerge as the pitcher he once appeared to be, but instead about giving deGrom the recognition that he’s sorely due even as Harvey continues to get more attention. deGrom isn’t the personality that Harvey is away from the diamond in terms of his appeal in the New York tabloids, but none of that stuff matters when it’s time to take the field. A cool, collected customer who almost never lets his emotions show on the mound (perhaps he could talk to Jon Niese about that?), deGrom is growing into a pitcher that even the Mets didn’t see blossoming to this extent when the seed was initially planted.

On June 24, Joel Sherman wrote a column for the New York Post asking the question of why deGrom wasn’t being treated like Harvey:

“Harvey is still not even half a season back from his surgery, so you could believe the best of his 2015 is yet to come. But deGrom had Tommy John surgery in his past, and until he joined the Mets organization he was not even a full-time pitcher. It is possible he is still learning how to fully use all his weapons. Scary thought for NL hitters: DeGrom may be getting better, too.”

18 APR 2015: New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) during the game between the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins played at Citi Field in Flushing,NY. The New York Mets defeat the Miami Marlins 5-4.

deGrom’s opponents are hitting .208/.247/.286 with a .534 OPS against him. Matt Harvey’s opponents are hitting .230/.269/.383 with a .651 OPS against him. Even though that may feel like splitting hairs to some, that’s a significant and telling difference in the season each talented starter is having. deGrom is faring better against both lefties and righties than Harvey, as well.

This isn’t about the downfall of Matt Harvey. This isn’t designed to be a dramatic illustration of the current landscape. There are no exaggerations being made within.

The eyes and numbers match up to tell the same story this season: Jacob deGrom is the Mets’ best pitcher.

Get used to it.

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