What’s the scary thing about Mets starter Jacob deGrom in July?
You could make a case that he should be even better than he’s been.
New York Mets
That seems hard to fathom considering how good deGrom has been this month -- 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA, three straight starts of seven innings or more and one earned run or fewer, with the only blip being his first start of the month, in which he allowed three runs in five innings to the Atlanta Braves.
deGrom’s 34-strikeout, five-walk, no homers allowed combo yields a 1.10 Fielding Independent Pitching (known as FIP in sabermetric terms). That’s an estimate on what deGrom’s ERA should have been had an average percentage of balls in play been converted into outs.
That’s the one odd thing among deGrom’s numbers- opponents have a .365 batting average on balls in play against him in July.
But deGrom has thrived regardless, to the point of being talked about as an NL Rookie of the Year candidate. His 1.6 Wins Above Replacement this season is the best among NL rookie pitchers, though it trails two position players -- Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton (2.5) and Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings (2.1)
The best thing about deGrom is that it seems like he’s getting better with each start. The biggest improvement has come in his walk rate, which was 4.0 per 9 innings entering the month. He’s cut that to 1.7 in July.
He’s also upped his ground-ball rate, which was 43 percent from April to June, to 50 percent this month, and done so by getting the ball to the bottom of the strike zone more often. His rate of throwing pitches to the lower-third of the strike zone or below, has gone from 48 percent (pre-July) to 57 percent (this month).
Highest Pct of Hitters Struck Out
deGrom has had all four pitches working very effectively this month. The best jump in performance has come from his curveball, which has been a tantalizing pitch for hitters.
deGrom’s first 51 curveballs this season resulted in six hits allowed, six swings and misses, and two outs recorded. The 44 he’s thrown in July (an average of 11 per start) have resulted in only two hits allowed, 13 swings-and-misses, and seven outs recorded.
With better secondary stuff has come better fastball results. Opponents have missed on 27 percent of deGrom’s fastballs this month, the highest rate for any starting pitcher in the major leagues.
deGrom can put himself into some good company with another start of at least seven innings, with one run or fewer allowed. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only two rookies have had a streak of four straight such starts in the last 30 seasons -- Roy Oswalt in 2001 and Matt Cain in 2006.