Jacob deGrom is certainly the most high-profile Mets player since the reign of David Wright, and perhaps the most prolific pitcher since the days of Doc Gooden. deGrom has parlayed a 2014 rookie of the year award into several great to legendary years in Flushing. Despite just eight seasons in the big leagues totalling under 1300 innings pitched, the Mets ace has almost certainly cemented his legacy as one of the best in team history. However, as is the case with many current players on the border of great and elite, the conversation quickly turns to the MLB hall of fame.
Jacob deGrom: Career to Date
Thus far in his career, deGrom has accrued 39.7 pitching WAR, according to Baseball Reference. This is in the same neighbourhood as guys like Adam Wainwright, who sits at 42.6. Now, Wainwright has certainly had a great career, but it’s a good bet that the career Cardinal will fall short of the Hall when his time on the ballot arrives. The difference between these two though, is that for one, deGrom should play several more years while Wainwright plans to retire after 2022. In addition, Wainwright has slowly accumulated great stat totals over years of solid performance. deGrom on the other hand has posted multiple legendary seasons that should weigh heavily when his shot at the MLB hall of fame arrives.
The Case for Jacob deGrom in the MLB Hall of Fame
deGrom has already reached several benchmarks that should help his argument for the MLB hall of fame. In his legendary 2018 campaign, he posted a rarely-seen 1.70 ERA across a full season of work. For his career, he sports a 157 ERA+, which is fourth best all-time, just ahead of names like Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, and Satchel Paige. deGrom is also a strikeout pitcher, averaging 10.7 K/9 over his career, which typically helps in the HOF election.
Further, the 34-year-old has also accumulated several awards in his short career, including rookie of the year, four all-star selections, and two Cy Youngs. It can only help if Jacob deGrom returns this year and leads the Mets to a long-awaited World Series ring.
Looking Ahead for Jacob deGrom
Almost certainly, Jacob deGrom could not retire tomorrow and make the MLB Hall of Fame. He needs to continue to pitch for at least two or three seasons in order to fill out his stats. However, he has the benefit of multiple legendary campaigns already in the books. The biggest concern for deGrom is his recent injury history, though he is currently slated to return next week after missing more than a year with various injuries. Ideally, deGrom’s remaining years will follow the path of Justin Verlander, who is virtually a lock to be a first-ballot inductee. On the precipice of age 40, Verlander continues to dominate the American League, even after missing more than a year due to Tommy John‘s surgery.
Ultimately, the best current comparison for Jacob deGrom’s case may be fellow New York Mets ace, Johan Santana. The two-time Cy Young winner’s career was cut short, spanning only twelve years. At his peak though, Santana’s dominance was unmatched, leading the American League in ERA+, strikeouts, and WHIP for three consecutive seasons. He totalled 51.7 WAR between 2000 and 2012 but did not do enough in the eyes of the BBWAA, earning just 2.4% of the vote in his first year and subsequently dropping off the ballot.
With a few more good years, Jacob deGrom can surpass Santana in WAR, and was arguably more dominant at his peak. There’s also hope that as the voting base continues to evolve in its thinking, the MLB Hall of Fame may become open to less-traditional cases. If not, Jacob deGrom may be destined to join the club of under-appreciated Mets with the likes of Keith Hernandez and David Wright.
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