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Vlad and Tatis and Acuna are great stories this year, Wander Francoís a great story, umpires patting down pitchers like theyíre about to enter the gates of the Corleone compound is a great--or at least a strange--story, but the number-one story of the year is obviously Jacob deGrom. Thereís what he might do, and also some of the puzzling questions that will arise if he just misses. To start, ERA--not adjusted, not fielding-independent, just plain old Earned Run Average. Three months and 69 games into the season, deGromís ERA is 0.50. Depending upon how skeptically you view any pitching records that predate Babe Ruth, deGrom has the all-time ERA record within reach--Dutch Leonardís 0.96 in 1904--and also Bob Gibsonís modern-day record of 1.12, set in the freakish Year of the Pitcher, 1968. Wait, though; sitting above Leonard on Baseball Referenceís leaders page is Tim Keefe, 0.86 in 1880, and also five players from the Negro Leagues (including Satchel Paige), statis- tics from which were, within a certain window, absorbed (if thatís the right word) into the official record book this past year.* If you include everything, deGrom is aiming for Eugene Bremerís 0.71, established in 1937. With so many variables in the earlier numbers, I think most fans and media are looking at Gibson as the guy to beat. Right now, according to a little graphic the MLB site includes on their front page every day, deGrom is over a run ahead of Gibson, who was at 1.52 through his first 12 starts. But, with Gibson throwing 305 innings in 1968 (and 106 in his first 12 starts), thatís kind of meaning- less. The focus is very much on deGromís ERA, but heís also presently eclipsing a number of other pitching records, both old-school and sabermetric. Iíll again stick to post-war MLB records--especially with Adjusted ERA, there are many Negro League pitchers who bettered Bauerís mark: 1. Hits-per-9-innings: Trevor Bauer, 2020, 5.05 (deGrom Ė 3.38) 2. K-per-9-innings: Shane Bieber, 2020, 14.20 (deGrom Ė 14.63) 3. K/BB ratio: Phil Hughes, 2014, 11.63 (deGrom Ė 11.70) 4. WHIP: Pedro Martinez, 2000, 0.737 (deGrom Ė 0.463) 5. Adjusted ERA: Trevor Bauer, 2020, 292 (deGrom Ė 774) 6. Fielding-independent pitching Ė Pedro Martinez, 1999, 1.40 (deGrom Ė 0.87) I take those Trevor Bauer/Shane Bieber numbers with a huge grain of Hydroxychloroquine, by the way: Bauer threw 73 innings in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Bieber 77.1. I assume you had to throw one inning per team game to qualify for leaderboards and records, but when youíre down to IP in the 70s, you may as well include some of the other-worldly numbers put up by Chapman and Kimbrel and other closers. Looking past those two guys, the post-war record for H/9 is Nolan Ryan in 1972 (5.26); K/9 is Gerrit Cole in 2019 (13.82); and Adjusted ERA is Pedro in 2000 (291). Iíve probably missed a couple of marks deGrom is chasing, esoteric stuff like Base-Out Runs Saved that only the people at Fangraphs understand. If deGrom does break Gibsonís mark, one thing falls in place for sure, another almost for sure: he wins his third Cy Young award (unanimously) and, 10-15 years down the road, he goes into the HOF. The second, because of some complicating factors, is not a certainty, but precedent has established an inviolable rule-of-three when it comes to Cy Youngs and MVPs: provided you donít have a PED cloud hanging over you (Clemens, Bonds, and A-Rod), and assuming Pujols, Trout, Kershaw, and Scherzer are HOF-bound, three of either guarantees induction. There are a number of players who won two and fell short. But what happens if deGrom doesnít break Gibsonís mark, or if he breaks it but doesnít have enough IP to qualify for the ERA title (meaning he doesnít actually break it)? How close does he have to come--in ERA if he qualifies but ends up higher than 1.12; in innings if heís lower than 1.12 but short of 162 IP--to win his third Cy and, presumably, end up in the HOF? Getting to 162 innings is not a given the way things stand. DeGrom is both fragile and cautious: heís had, I think, four different physical issues this year that have led to him exiting games early and/or missing starts. Last week, against the Cubs, he pitched three perfect innings, struck out 8 of 9 batters, and pulled himself from the game--he was back in there five days later. Heís thrown 72 innings thus far, with the Mets about to play their 70th game. DeGrom will pitch their 71st; if he stays in rotation the rest of the way, heíd get 19 more starts and would have to average 4.73 innings per start. Which is nothing--itís staying in rotation the rest of the way that provides the challenge. Thereís not a huge margin of error there; if he misses one start, that jumps to 5 innings per start; if he misses two, 5.29. If he were to go on the DL for anything longer than two starts, his margin of error all but disappears--to date, heís averaging exactly six innings per start. Two scenarios: 1) He betters Gibsonís 1.12, but he only throws 150 innings. Iíd still vote for him for the Cy, but I think many sportswriters will automatically drop him from their ballots (or at the very least only give him a nominal 4th- or 5th-place vote). How many, I donít know, but with Gausman, Wheeler, and Woodruff (three guys about whom I know virtually nothing--you can maybe throw Scherzer in there, too) all having great seasons, that might be enough to cost him Cy #3. Or maybe, with those other guys splitting votes, heíd win anyway. 2) He gets his 162 innings, but he falls short of Gibson. Maybe he comes really, really close, ends up at 1.25 or something, or maybe he ends up more in the range of Dwight Gooden (1.53) or Greg Maddux (1.56), or maybe even he gets hammered in one start and ends up over 2.00. If he just barely clears 162 IP, then itís a case of balancing that with his ERA; if the first is too low or the second too high, heíll probably end up behind one or two of the aforementioned Cy contenders in WAR. There is so much weirdness attached to deGrom, for both his career (his infamous lack of run support from the Mets, which combined with a late start--he broke in at 26--has him with 77 wins at the age of 33) and this season (heís hitting .407, and has knocked in more runs, 6, than heís allowed, 4), that itís becoming harder and harder to know where he stands in relation to anything. Come to think of it, I donít think Iíve ever heard him speak, either. *Something I fully support, but the transition--feelings vs. facts--wonít be instantaneous; 0.71 is just not going to acquire the larger-than-lifeness that 1.12 has overnight.

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