By any measure, Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA (145 ERA+) in 191 innings last season, then tacked on another 25 innings of 2.88 ERA ball in the postseason.
deGrom does it with power and precision. His 5.1 percent walk rate was 12th lowest among the 78 qualified starters last year, and his 94.9 mph average fastball velocity was seventh highest. Very few pitchers combine that much velocity with that many strikes.
In addition to his velocity and contol, deGrom has another weapon up his sleeves: his hair. One player told Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record that deGrom's long flowing locks are a distraction when you're in the batter's box. From Klapisch:
So, about that hair. This comes from someone who faced deGrom in the postseason last year, and admitted those flowing locks were a problem. Big problem.
"First of all, I see this guy on the mound who looks like a stick figure,” the hitter said. “I mean, you don’t see major league pitchers who look like that. And he’s got that hair – you can’t not look at it, it’s everywhere. It bothers me when I’m trying to pick up the ball out of his hand. All I see is hair."
When told about his distracting hair, deGrom told Klapisch, "That's pretty cool ... I guess now I’ll never cut it."
Perhaps long hair is a new competitive advantage? Zack Greinke wore his hair long last season and he had baseball's lowest ERA in two decades. Then again, Tim Lincecum has worn his hair long for a long time, and he's struggled big time the last few years.
Maybe long hair is one of those things that can help a pitcher a little tiny bit. If you've got power stuff and good command, you're going to be effective no matter what. Add in a distracting haircut, and hey, you might be an ace like deGrom.