Is Jacob deGrom Bound for Cooperstown?

Andrew Hahn, Writer

The New York Mets star pitcher Jacob deGrom just nabbed his second consecutive Cy Young Award, reaffirming his place as the best pitcher in the National League.  With two successive dominant seasons, deGrom has shown that he is one of the best starting pitchers of his generation. However, is he an all-time great player? Is there a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame reserved for Jacob deGrom?  

As with other aspiring MLB players who hope to get their statues enshrined in Cooperstown, potential Hall of Fame pitchers need to win awards or compile career statistics.  Ideally, the best candidate should have a bunch of trophies as well as gaudy career numbers. For starting pitchers, the most prestigious award is the Cy Young, with other accolades such as Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, and All-Star selection carrying some weight.  Compilers need to have long careers and rack up impressive statistics, namely the number of wins and strikeouts for pitchers.  

If Jacob deGrom were to make the Hall of Fame, he would most likely have to rely on his award tallies.  Aside from his two Cy Young awards, deGrom has also won the Rookie of the Year Award and has been named to three All-star teams.  However, his career statistics thus far are not impressive. Although his 1,255 strikeouts in six seasons are remarkable, his 66 career victories not nearly as impressive. Unfortunately for deGrom, he is infamous for being one of the most unlucky pitchers in baseball.  Because the Mets offense provides him with very little run support, it has been difficult for him to earn a large number of wins. In 2018, the Mets offense average 4.25 runs per game during the season, but when Jacob deGrom pitched, they only averaged 3.55 runs, which was the main reason why deGrom won only ten games in his first Cy Young season.  2019 wasn’t much better, with only 11 wins. As a comparison, American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander had 21 wins just in 2019!  

The number of wins is an overrated statistic in evaluating a pitcher’s career. Still, the Hall of Fame committee has traditionally valued wins, with 300 being the magic number that guarantees the inclusion in Cooperstown. At his current pace, deGrom has to pitch 21 more seasons to reach 300 wins, which would mean that he has to pitch until he is 52 years old.  DeGrom’s strikeout numbers are more worthy in the Hall of Fame discussion, but it is still unlikely for him to reach the magic number of 3000. Of the 18 pitchers who have reached this landmark, 14 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the four remaining, two are ineligible because they are still playing (CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander), Roger Clemens is being blackballed for alleged PED use, and Curt Schilling has only 216 wins despite 3116 career strikeouts. For deGrom to reach 3000 K’s, he needs to pitch another 14 years at the current rate.  However, deGrom had a relatively late start to his career because he played college ball and underwent Tommy John surgery. He is 31 years old, and it is extremely rare for a starting pitcher to play past the age of 40.  

The question remains whether his two Cy Youngs are enough for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the seven Hall of Fame eligible pitchers who have won two Cy Youngs (excluding those who have won three or more), three have not been inducted: Johan Santana, Bret Saberhagen, and Denny McLain. Santana had two dominant years but had an injury-plagued career that resulted in only 139 total wins.  Saberhagen’s career was also affected by injuries, with only 167 wins on his resume. Denny McLain had an inconsistent career, and some question whether he deserves one of his two Cy Youngs. In 1968, he had a total of 31 wins, which is the last time a pitcher ever recorded 30 or more wins. However, his ERA was only the 4th best in the American League, and his large number of wins may have been the result of good fortune.  

Because two Cy Youngs does not guarantee Hall of Fame induction, and deGrom is unlikely to amass big career statistical numbers, he will need to win at least another Cy Young to be considered for Cooperstown. Historically, almost every eligible pitcher who has three or more Cy Youngs has made the Hall of Fame.  The only exception is Roger Clemons because of cheating allegations. The chance of Jacob deGrom getting a third Cy Young may be realistic as his main competition in the National League is declining. Los Angeles Dodger Clayton Kershaw has already won three Cy Youngs but has lost much of his dominance in the past two seasons.  Washington National Max Scherzer, another three-time Cy Young winner, is 35 years old and nearing the end of his career. DeGrom still has a lot of baseball ahead of him, but it is safe to say that his Hall of Fame chances at this point in his life are promising but far from guaranteed.