Major League Baseball is back. There is still a global pandemic to navigate, but the 60-game regular season will begin with two nationally televised games Thursday night. The traditional league-wide Opening Day will follow Friday. Hopefully the season can be completed safely and a World Series champion can be crowned.
Throughout the season my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. This week we're going to pick between two of the best pitchers in baseball, who coincidentally share a home market.
Who would you rather have in 2020: Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom?
Katherine Acquavella: I'll take Cole for the 2020 season. Either choice is a good one, but I give Cole the slight edge over deGrom since he's a little bit younger, has stayed healthier for longer, throws more strikeouts as of late and has recorded 40 2/3 more career postseason innings. Cole is heading into his age-29 season in 2020 while deGrom will be 32-years-old for the 60-game schedule. As far as health is concerned, if we go off of last season, Cole looks to be in better position to maintain his numbers from his recent level of dominance. deGrom missed some time last season when he ended up on the injured list with nagging elbow soreness and discomfort. The right-hander has previously undergone Tommy John surgery back in 2010.
It was Cole's time with the Astros that ultimately turned out to be a game changer for his game. By utilizing his four-seam fastball more, he was able to see a huge spike in his strikeout performance. Cole's three-year strikeout percentage progression is as follows: 2017 with the Pirates (23.1 percent), 2018 with the Astros (34.5 percent) and 2019 with the Astros saw another spike (39.9 percent). While deGrom has also increased his strikeout percentage over the past three seasons, his highest mark — 31. 7 percent — is still a ways from Cole's career-high mark.
R.J. Anderson: You can't go wrong either way, but I'll go with deGrom. Obviously he's a few years older, and there's always a chance for mishap and misfortune when you're dealing with the Wilpon Era Mets. Even so, deGrom has been better than Cole throughout their careers. If you limit it to the past two seasons, when Cole has been at the demonstrated peak of his powers, Cole has thrown 412 innings with a 164 ERA+ and a 5.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio; deGrom has thrown 421 innings with a 189 ERA+ and and a 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Maybe this is the year deGrom slips or maybe the Yankees can unlock even more from Cole. I'm fine taking the chance.
Mike Axisa: Long-term, I think you have to take Cole because he's several years younger and doesn't have Tommy John surgery in his history. For 2020 alone, I'm going with deGrom. He is marvelous. It's high-end stuff, elite command, and incredible tenacity. His last two seasons were as good a two-season stretch as we've seen from any pitcher since Randy Johnson was in his prime, and at age 32, I'm not too worried about sudden age-related decline. If anything, the shutdown may help deGrom a bit as it gives his body more time to recover from a big workload the last two years. Also, there's a chance Cole stumbles a bit as he transitions to a new team, a new division, a new ballpark, etc. No reason to worry about that with deGrom. Cole is fantastic and I won't argue with anyone who takes him over deGrom in 2020. For me, I have deGrom ever so slightly ahead.
Dayn Perry: Tough call, but I'll lean deGrom. Yes, he had health concerns earlier in his career, but he's now registered three straight seasons of at least 200 innings. Over his last two seasons, he's put up a combined FIP of 2.32, which is just an absurd figure for a starting pitcher across more than 400 innings. Cole isn't far behind with a 2.67 mark over the last two seasons, but that's still an important advantage for deGrom. If we'd pushed this out to, say, who would you take over the next two or three seasons, then I probably would've gone Cole because of the age difference. For 2020, though, I'll go deGrom in a close call because of his modestly stronger underlying indicators over the last two years.
Matt Snyder: They are so close to me. It's a razor thin decision. I actually ranked aces several weeks ago and I had them 1-2. I'm leaning deGrom here for two reasons. First off, he's been more dominant the past two years than Cole has. It's easy to forget, but deGrom actually had a rough stretch early last season before setting back into 2018 Terminator mode. In his last 23 starts, deGrom posted a 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 188 strikeouts in 152 innings. At age 32, he's still in his prime and he didn't have a change of scenery -- which can be unpredictable -- in the offseason. Again, it's close and there's not really a wrong answer, but I'm going deGrom.