There aren’t many new ways to describe what Jacob deGrom is doing for the Mets. “DeGrominant” has become a standard and not just a play on his name when he’s rolling.
He set the bar higher still Friday night in New York with a two-hit, 15-strikeout, no-walk shutout of the Nationals. Being unhittable every time he takes the mound is a reasonable assumption at the moment thanks to an 0.31 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 29 innings to begin the 2021 season.
Fans can also expect that deGrom will make history. The 50 Ks are an MLB record for a pitcher in his first four starts of the season. DeGrom passed Nolan Ryan and Shane Bieber with his 14th punchout Friday. No. 15 set a personal single-game mark.
DeGrom had 14 strikeouts in each of his previous two starts, which means his 15 on Friday also put him in this select group: He, Pedro Martinez and Gerrit Cole are the only pitchers with 14 or more in three consecutive starts.
“I knew 14 was the most I had had, so when I looked up there and I saw 12 (after six innings), I was like, ‘OK, you’ve got to figure out a way to strike out three guys,’ and I was fortunate enough to be able to do it because the last two innings I wasn’t able to strike out anybody,” he said.
His pitching was so captivating that his two hits and an RBI at the plate became fun footnotes.
What’s behind DeGrom’s phenomenal counting numbers? These three foundational stats can help to give us the answer:
98.9 mph average speed on his four-seam fastball
That’s the primary reason for the 50 Ks. DeGrom’s four-seamer ranged from 97-101 mph Friday, according to Statcast.
Of course, everything DeGrom throws is fast. His slider and changeup average 91-92 mph.
He told reporters that he was sharp warming up before the game, which had him worried.
“Tonight, I noticed my stuff was really good in the bullpen and I’ve had starts where my stuff has been really good in the bullpen and you go out there and you almost lose a little bit of focus. So walking in I literally was thinking, ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep that focus throughout the whole game,'” he said.
Needless to say, deGrom stayed focused.
73.0 strike percentage
DeGrom is pounding the strike zone at a career-best rate, and why shouldn’t he with his stuff? He bumped up the average Friday by throwing 84 of his 109 pitches for strikes.
“He just commanded the whole game,” Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo said, per ESPN.com.
DeGrom’s command has him on track to record the most efficient season of his career. He’s averaging a career-low 13.1 pitches per inning after four starts. His lowest average for a full season is 14.8 in 2018, the year he won his first of back-to-back NL Cy Young awards.
And fewer pitches can mean more innings. DeGrom threw just 95 pitches, 76 for strikes, over eight innings in a loss to the Marlins on April 10.
.000 opponents’ batting average with RISP
DeGrom has had to raise his compete level to the highest of highs thanks to Mets hitters’ notorious lack of run support. So far this year, no one has gotten a hit off him with runners in scoring position. Batters are 0 for 7 with a walk, four strikeouts and a sacrifice fly in those situations.
Just one Nationals batter reached second base Friday: Andrew Stevenson doubled with two outs in the third inning. DeGrom retired the next hitter, Josh Harrison, on a ground ball to shortstop Francisco Lindor, and then proceeded to set down the next 18 Nats to close out the game.
“It’s fun (to strike out hitters), but at the same time . . . the goal is to still put up zeroes. There was a little bit of stress with that to go out there and continue to try to put up zeroes for the guys,” deGrom said.
He has handled the stress just fine in 2021, having now putting up zeroes in 27 of his 29 innings.