Mets starter Jacob deGrom was again great in his outing Monday night. He lowered his ERA to 1.68 on the season and that's rarefied air, especially if we view it in the proper context (post-Dead Ball Era, post-integration, post-1968). What happened in 1968, you ask? That's when the mound was lowered to increase offense. Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA that season is the top ERA since the Dead Ball Era, but, again, the pitchers in today's game are operating on a lower mound.
There have been 10 seasons from pitchers who qualified for the ERA title with an ERA lower than 1.80 since the mound was lowered. Here they are:
- Dwight Gooden, 1.53, 1985
- Greg Maddux, 1.56, 1994
- Greg Maddux, 1.63, 1995
- Zack Greinke, 1.66, 2015
- Nolan Ryan, 1.69, 1981
- Pedro Martinez, 1.74, 2000
- Ron Guidry, 1.74, 1978
- Tom Seaver, 1.76, 1971
- Jake Arrieta, 1.77, 2015
- Clayton Kershaw, 1.77, 2014
DeGrom currently sits in between Greinke and Ryan at 1.68. Let's set our sights higher, though. Could deGrom break Gooden's mark of 1.53? He's running out of time, so 0.16 being shaved off will be tough.
If deGrom stays on his normal turn, he'll get five more starts. One of them comes in Boston against the mighty Red Sox, but he's been shutting good offenses down all year. The other matchups aren't exactly pushovers, either, with two coming against the Phillies and one against the Braves before closing down against whatever filth the Marlins run out on the final day of the season.
To this point, deGrom has averaged 6 2/3 innings per start on the year. If he just maintains that pace, he'll throw 33 1/3 innings the rest of the way. That gets deGrom to 221 1/3 innings once the season ends. That shatters his career high (previous was 201 1/3 last year), but he's a workhorse at this point. He can handle that workload.
If deGrom does get to those 221 1/3 innings, he's going to need to be near perfect to get the record. Look:
- If deGrom gave up no more earned runs this year, his ERA would end up 1.42.
- If deGrom gave up one more earned run this year, his ERA would end up 1.46.
- If deGrom gave up two more earned runs this year, his ERA would end up 1.50.
- If deGrom gave up three more earned runs this year, his ERA would end up 1.55.
Maybe he'll work more innings, giving him a bit more breathing room on allowing runs. It's easy to see Mets manager Mickey Calloway letting him go deeper on the final day of the season in order to pad his stats for a possible Cy Young.
If we stick with the basic parameter from above, though (6 2/3 innings per start on average), deGrom has had a few stretches that would either do the trick or come close to working.
- In his last five August starts, deGrom went 35 2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs. If he did that for his next five, the ERA would end up at 1.57.
- In his last four starts, deGrom has given up three earned runs in 29 innings.
- From April 21 through May 28, deGrom allowed only two runs in 40 1/3 innings. Pick any stretch of innings in there and he's home.
As noted, it's a tall order. The odds of deGrom somehow beating Gooden's 1.53 are not very good, but he's still having one of the best run prevention seasons, in proper context, that we've ever seen.