The MVP award is for hitters, and the Cy Young award is for pitchers. That's how it's always been in the National League, where position players have earned MVP honors in 80 of 90 seasons and all but once since 1968.
Then someone like Jacob deGrom comes along and changes the calculus. After tossing 11 strikeouts over seven shutout innings against the Padres on Saturday, the Mets ace leads MLB in ERA (0.62), WHIP (0.57), strikeout rate (45.4%), and even fWAR (3.2) - more than any position player in the NL. Among pitching stats, deGrom leads in seemingly every conceivable metric, and second place isn't close.
As a result, he entered Thursday priced at +650 to win MVP - behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. (+300) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (+370) and well ahead of Kris Bryant (+1300) and Nick Castellanos (+1300). It doesn't hurt that, in a limited sample, deGrom is hitting better than all of them - his .391 batting average ranks second among all players with at least 20 at-bats.
So how does deGrom's season stack up to past MVP-winning pitchers? Here are his stats compared to the first nine appearances for every pitcher to win NL MVP since the award was introduced in 1931.
If deGrom's numbers weren't impressive enough before, they're striking when compared to past MVPs. His ERA is by far the lowest of the bunch, and he also boasts the best batting average against and the most strikeouts - even while throwing fewer innings than some past winners.
Still, it's hard for a pitcher to win MVP regardless of their numbers. Consider Pedro Martinez's 1999 campaign, when he finished the season with a 2.07 ERA and a ridiculous 13.2 strikeouts per nine in the heart of the steroid era. He finished second in MVP voting. Gibson's 1968 season is arguably the best in MLB history, and he split six of 20 MVP votes that year.
DeGrom has better numbers than both through their first nine starts, which makes him a compelling play at a reasonable price. The safer money is still on Tatis, Acuna, or even Castellanos, who leads qualified NL batters in batting average (.355) and fWAR (3.1). If Castellanos can carry his current pace into July and August, he's worth a shot.
But so is deGrom, who is doing things we haven't seen in 50 years, or maybe ever. And if he maintains even 80-90% of this current pace across a full season, he'll reward bettors who take a chance on witnessing history.
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||+300|
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||+370|