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Why Isn’t Jacob deGrom in the MVP conversation?

The Mets pitcher just capped off a historic season but won’t get recognized for it. What’s the deal?

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Jacob deGrom / Elsa/Getty Images

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October 19, 2018

The New York Mets’ pitcher Jacob deGrom had for a campaign for the ages. He will probably win the NL’s Cy Young Award, thanks to a dominating 3–0 win over the NL East division champs, the Atlanta Braves, on the last day of the regular season. Despite the Mets not living up to their nickname, deGrom’s on the mound performance was nothing short of “amazin,” racking up a NL-leading 8.8 WAR according to fangraphs.

 

So now experts face a crisis—a well-liked deep stat, WAR, anoints deGrom as the best player in the NL. But where does that leave deGrom in the MVP discussion?

 

DeGrom was a flat-out stud on the mound, pitching 217 innings while having a major league best 1.70 ERA. DeGrom’s 1.70 ERA is the sixth-lowest of all time since the mound was lowered in 1969. But this is just the beginning of how monumental and impressive the 30-year-old’s outstanding performance was.

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DeGrom racked up 269 strikeouts while only walking 46 hitters. Considering how elite these numbers are, is it good enough for deGrom to be mentioned in the NL MVP talks? In the past, there have been 11 pitchers ever to win a Cy Young and MVP in the same year. DeGrom has a valid case for MVP.

 

According to rules set for voters at the BBWAA, MVP candidates are evaluated with the following criteria:

 

(1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

DeGrom’s onfield performance automatically qualifies for the running and his numbers match some of the best regular pitching performances of all time for an MVP winner. Let's pit deGrom against a historical counterpart; in this case, Roger Clemens’s historic 1986 season. Other than leading the major in wins (24), Clemens led all pitchers in ERA (2.48), a WHIP (0.96) and was second in strikeouts with 269. In the juiced ball era, de Grom’s park-adjusted ERA+ is much higher than Clemens’ 1986: 216 to 169.

 

Yet deGrom’s case for MVP has floundered as voters tend to have antiquated views of what "value" means in baseball. He leads all National League players in WAR (10.0) this season, which is more than Kershaw (8.2) and Clemens (8.9) in their MVP campaigns. On top of deGrom’s ERA obliterating Clemens and Kershaw’s totals, he tied Jake Arrieta’s major league record of 29 straight starts of allowing three runs or fewer. He joins an elite company of legendary pitchers such as Christy Matthewson (1908) and Pedro Martinez (2000) as the only players to ever post a sub-2.00 ERA, 250 strikeouts and 50 walks or fewer season. This is rare air. He needs to be in the conversation.