The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.
He is the joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.
DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.
“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”
Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable. When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”
His competitive nature was noticed by Gooden and Seaver. Eye-popping was when he struck out eight straight MIami Marlins to open a September 15 game. He had four double-digit strikeout games during the season and set a rookie franchise-record, pitching 67.1 innings from June 5-August 7 without allowing a home run.
“When I saw that he had struck out eight straight I just said to myself ‘Wow, this guy almost broke my record and all of his were to start the game,’” said Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. Seaver holds the major league record with 10 straight strikeouts at any point during a game.
“That’s impressive. I made sure to find his box score whenever he pitched.”
Said Gooden: “I was fortunate enough to see him pitch a few times at Citi Field. What impressed me the most was that every time he got into a tough situation he always made the pitch he needed to get out of the jam. I love the way he competes.”
It’s that poise that makes deGrom in the Mets’ young pitching core along with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.
Perhaps the hardest thing for any rookie pitcher is to develop a chemistry with his catcher. That wasn’t a problem,
“He is enjoyable to catch because he is always around the strike zone,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “I just hold up my glove and he hits the mitt. He never gets rattled no matter the situation. He’s just going to get better and better.”
o say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched to say he’s ahead of Wheeler,
What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.
A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.
DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.
DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.
“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’
The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and Collins said. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.
“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.
“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’
By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.