The Rangers’ ace will return, but his Hall of Fame candidacy has taken a significant hit as a result of missing so much time.
When it was confirmed this week that Jacob deGrom will undergo his second Tommy John surgery, the first-place Texas Rangers lost their ace for the remainder of the current campaign and possibly some of the following one. This season, DeGrom made six starts, all of which he won (2.67 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 45 K, 4 BB, 30 1/3 IP).
Let’s allow our thoughts to stray a little bit beyond what this implies for deGrom and the Rangers right now. them in the direction of Cooperstown. Even with a tremendous foundation from his elite-level heyday, DeGrom, who turns 35 later this month, was going to face an uphill struggle, so let’s take a closer look at where things are now and where they might go.
The first thing to remember is that deGrom’s career is not in any way doomed as a result of this. Elite-level producers are able to return from this treatment to pitch at a high level because he is contracted through 2027 with a mutual option for 2028. After undergoing Tommy John surgery considerably later in life, Justin Verlander earned the Cy Young Award last season and served as the starting pitcher for a World Series-winning rotation.
DeGrom’s Hall case will continue to have a compilation issue, nevertheless. That will be established today.
He’s not too far away from occupying the top tier in terms of rates. In fact, he might even be considered to be among the best. Let’s go over some of the most crucial rate numbers with deGrom facing three different top-tier pitchers. I’ll choose Pedro Martinez because Prime Pedro is the finest rate stat pitcher of all time, Clayton Kershaw because he is generally recognized as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Sandy Koufax because he has long been viewed as the model for a “short” prime elite-tier pitcher.
As it is the internet of 2023, I realize I can’t stop people from freaking out, but let’s remember that this is just a rate-based illustration of how fantastic deGrom has been, not an attempt to rank all-time best pitchers or anything. You have failed if you find yourself asking, “How is (insert any pitcher ever) not included here?”
Although we could go further, there really isn’t a need to. The idea has been conveyed. In terms of preventing runs, keeping runners off base, and strikeout-to-walk ratio (he actually holds the all-time record for the latter), DeGrom has been among the best pitchers in baseball history.
The fact that deGrom has only started 215 games in his career is an issue for his Hall of Fame case going forward. Individual victories are a dated way to evaluate a pitcher, at least as a key criterion, but I can’t help but think that deGrom’s 84 wins will come as a shock to many.
DeGrom has a career record of 84–57. When pitching, he is a strikeout monster, although his 1,652 career strikeouts are hardly impressive. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering that he has only pitched 1,356 1/3 innings.
When you add everything up, deGrom currently ranks 113rd among starting pitchers in JAWS, behind pitchers like Ron Guidry, David Wells, Cliff Lee, and Adam Wainwright. By no means disparaging the business, but it’s not the Hall of Fame.
To return to a key argument from earlier, it would be unwise to bury deGrom. After his surgery, he’ll most likely have a rewarding career.
But losing what’ll probably amount to at least a whole season is a serious setback. The time frame for completing necessary tasks is becoming even more limited.
For the purpose of argument, assume that deGrom wins another Cy Young Award and guides the Rangers to the World Series. I suppose that would add a little shine to his argument. It’s likely that the regular-season counting metrics would still require a big raise. Let’s concentrate on the largest:
With the exception of exceptional situations like Satchel Paige, “pioneer” inclusions like Candy Cummings, or players from the Negro League with incomplete data like Bullet Rogan, Dizzy Dean has the lowest win total of any starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame with 150. Koufax comes in at 165, followed by Addie Joss at 160. Again, deGrom has just 84 victories. Poor Mets run support and bullpen effort behind him cost him a significant amount, but that can only explain so much. The threshold for victories in this day and age ought to keep falling, but will it ever reach 100? Or 110? Simply put, deGrom needs to build up as many victories as he can once he returns.
Raising the bar for strikeouts is necessary as a counterbalance to lowering the bar for victories. DeGrom is now at 1,652. That ranks 169th overall in MLB history, which isn’t too shabby. What if I told you that he trails Derek Lowe, J.A. Happ, Ted Lilly, Matt Cain, Chan Ho Park, and Ubaldo Jimenez? Then we’d stop. DeGrom would move up to 131st position if he reached 1,750, although he would remain behind Francisco Liriano, Jason Schmidt, Ian Kennedy, Charlie Morton, Anibal Sanchez, Lance Lynn, and Randy Wolf. He needs to reach at least 2,000, in my opinion. 87 pitchers have struck out at least 2,000 batters as of right now. There will always be players like Andy Benes, Dan Haren, Ryan Dempster, and James Shields who missed the Hall of Fame, but their absence shouldn’t matter much in light of deGrom’s exceptional rate stats and numerous Cy Young Awards.
The 1,356 1/3 innings total is very small. Despite having what is seen as a brief career, Koufax threw 2,324 1/3 innings. He played at least 200 innings in five of his seasons. DeGrom has only three. CC Sabathia is a wonderful example of someone with a completely different situation than deGrom’s. His durability and the fact that he was such a workhorse will serve as selling points when he shortly appears on the ballot. His career total is 3,577 1/3 innings, with 251 victories. Eight times, he went over 200 innings. DeGrom can’t compete with CC, but adding another season with 200 innings to his resume could be very helpful.
As has already been stated twice, deGrom’s Hall of Fame is far from complete. Once he has through the arduous recovery process from his Tommy John surgery, he will be able to add to it. He’s expected to remain outstanding as long as he can stay on the field; the only question is whether he’ll be able to do so for long enough to rack up the necessary number of victories, strikeouts, and innings for a Hall of Fame career. Things are even less likely if he must miss a sizable portion of the rest of his career owing to this procedure.