Jacob deGrom has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball since the 2018 season. But even with two National League Cy Young awards (2018, 2019) under his belt, he has managed to take a step further than his performance in those two great seasons. With changes in his pitch selection and an increased velocity among his key pitches, Degrom is doing his part to lead the Mets towards a playoff spot.
Eliminating the Sinker
Jacob deGrom has eliminated his sinker from his pitch arsenal. In 2016, he threw his sinker 17.8% of the time. Since then, he has gradually phased out the pitch after each season. In 2019, only 1.1% of his pitches were sinkers. The elimination of the sinker was a decision made by Degrom and Mets pitching coach Phil Regan around September of last year. The reason for its elimination was that it is a pitch that is favored by players who swing with upward trajectories. This fact left the sinker vulnerable to home runs, leaving deGrom with no choice but to abandon his sinker.
Reducing the Curveball
deGrom has reduced his use of the curveball. In 2017, deGrom threw his curveball on 10% of his pitches. During the 2020 season, he has only thrown that pitch 3.9% of the time. The reduction in his curveball percentage goes back to April and May of last season, where his curveball was one of his pitches that raised his ERA in the early part of the 2019 season. When asked about the curveball in spring training, deGrom said, “It’s something that I’ve been working on to have another weapon. Once [JD Davis] hit it, I said to Rene [Rivera], ‘that’s why I don’t throw it.’’’ deGrom no longer has confidence in his curveball, and he does not need it when his slider has been so potent.
Jacob deGrom’s Elusive Slider
Not much has changed about deGrom’s slider from last season. In 2018, he only threw his slider 24% compared to 33% in 2020. His slider has increased 3.4 MPH in velocity since 2017, and his confidence in the pitch is higher than ever. For comparison, Degrom’s slider is 92.7 MPH compared to Gerritt Cole’s 88.4 MPH slider in 2020. deGrom also has a whiff rate on his slider of 41.6%. This is a massive increase compared to his slider whiff rate of 35.5% in 2019.
Increased Four-Seam Fastball Velocity
Finally, deGrom has made considerable improvements in his four-seam fastball in 2020. In 2016, he threw his four-seam fastball at 94 MPH. Now, that pitch is 98.5 MPH, and it is confusing hitters more than ever. He throws the pitch 44% of the time. His put away percentage on that pitch has doubled since last season (34.8% vs. 17.4%). His whiff percentage has also increased by 9.3% since last season. The increase proves that his four-seam fastball is more dynamic and harder to read than before.
The significant part of deGrom’s improvements is that these positive adjustments and increased velocities by pitch are not typical for a 32-year-old pitcher. Jacob deGrom is on a mission for acquiring a third straight NL CY Young Award. At this point, it will be hard for another pitcher in the national league to overtake him.
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