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Peak DeGrom vs Peak Kershaw
We are seeing Jacob DeGrom do things right now that we really haven’t seen a pitcher do before. It’s pure dominance. DeGrom has made 10 starts this year, never allowing more than a run and always managing to make it through the fifth. The only other pitcher since 1970 to make ten consecutive starts going five plus while not allowing more than a lone earned run is Jake Arrieta, and his streak spans over two seasons.
When asked who the two greatest pitchers of all time are, I usually say Pedro Martinez and Clayton Kershaw. Those are the two guys I’d want to build my staff around. DeGrom’s recent run has made me think about that just a little bit more.
There’s a lot to consider when comparing pitchers. I find it tougher to do than when comparing hitters. So, to simplify things, the question we’ll ask is this: how good is this guy at preventing runs? That is the job of a pitcher. To prevent the opposing team from scoring and put his defense in the best position to do that.
As this is being typed, Kershaw and DeGrom’s career ERA+ numbers are identical. They both sit at 156. Kershaw has pitched over 1000 more innings, which is certainly relevant. But, right now, we are just looking at their peaks. For DeGrom, we’ll say that is his whole career. For Kershaw, we’ll say it’s 2009 to 2017. Kershaw’s ERA+ from that span goes up to 168, 12 percent better than DeGrom’s 156. Kershaw has him beat in WHIP, FIP, and opponent batting stats as well.
Let’s zoom in even more. Kershaw’s peak as a whole, yes, is better than DeGrom’s. What if we look at just 10 game stretches like the one DeGrom is on now? In his career, Kershaw does not have a 10-game stretch with an ERA as dominant as DeGrom’s 0.56 currently is. Kershaw’s best 10 game run came in 2015. He had an ERA of 0.90 and a K/BB ratio that was 15/1. His average game score was 79, slightly better than DeGrom’s 76. So really, take your pick.
The point shouldn’t be which one is better. The point is that DeGrom is in this discussion. He probably won’t ever match Kershaw’s career accolades, but at his best, he’s right there with him. This sport has been around a long, long time and few people can throw a baseball like Jacob DeGrom.
I really didn’t want to write about this. I’m tired of this story. You’re tired of this story. Major League Baseball is tired of this story.
Full disclosure. I am not a therapist. But even I know you don’t fix problems in life by doing nothing. You can’t sit and watch a fire burn in the desert hoping for rain. Unless of course, you are Rob Manfred, and anyone involved with this.
Honestly, I don’t love singling Manfred out. There’s not much he could have done. Like all commissioners, he acts at the whim of the owners and the players union. He couldn’t just come out and start suspending people. Maybe, you think he should have done that, and I’m sure he has the power to. It’s just not that easy.
The rule is already in the books. It’s a matter of enforcement. We don’t know when this started escalating, or why these rules were never enforced, but this is where we are. And no, it has not always been this way. The Athletic’s Bhrit Ghiroli reported that teams were bringing in literal chemists to help them cook up substances. It’s more than just a little sticky stuff here, a little there. We’ve already been seeing some major decreases in spin rate. Trevor Bauer, Corbin Burnes, and Gerrit Cole have seen drops, just to name a few.
This is so frustrating and tiring because of the uncertainty. It feels like the MLB has been stuck in limbo on this since the winter. They keep saying stuff, but nothing is happening. We could be on the brink of real enforcement, or it could all just be more lip service from the league office.
The White Sox Are for Real
I’ll admit. I was skeptical about the White Sox coming into the year. The Tony La Russa hire didn’t blow me away, for obvious reasons. Slugger Eloy Jiminez went down in Spring Training. Lastly, we weren’t exactly sure what they were getting with their pitching staff.
It’s now June, and they’ve yet to slow down. They have pieced together hot streak after hot streak. Just when it looks like they may be coming back down to Earth, they go and win some more.
There are still some questions with this team. Jose Abreu has been good, but not as good as maybe some expected. Their pitching has been great as well, but there are reasonable questions about how sustainable it is.
Even if they slow down a bit, this team is really good. The AL doesn’t have any team that is built well from top to bottom. If I were a betting man, I’d take the Astros to win the AL, but the White Sox are right there with them.