New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom entered the 2021 season as a longshot candidate to win National League MVP. This wasn't the least bit surprising, since only 11 pitchers in major league history have won both Cy Young and MVP honors in the same season.
But deGrom's historically dominant first-half numbers have drastically improved his MVP odds, and former player and current MLB Network host Kevin Millar believes that deGrom's stretch of success over the last few years rivals and possibly outshines what one of his former Hall of Fame teammates achieved during the late 1990s.
"Something's different with his stuff," Millar told the Tiki and Tierney show on Friday. "And sometimes a 94 mph four-seam fastball can play to 99 if the guy's got that electrical, late life. Well, Jacob has that, but he's 98-102 mph with that late life that probably plays 107-110 mph at times because you can't see some of his stuff. I mean, former shortstop, can hit, athletic. It seemed like he had some wacky scenes go on, right in the beginning of this year. Seemed like there was a weird injury, somehow, someway.
"But the numbers that he's put up this first half? Yeah, he's probably better than [Boston Red Sox ace] Pedro Martinez in that one year , I will say. Pedro had like a what, a 1.80 [ERA] and everybody else next in line was like a 2.50? And Pedro, at 165 pounds, was probably the most intimidating pitcher that we've ever seen at that size."
deGrom, the current favorite to win NL MVP, has been virtually untouchable this season. The 33-year-old right-hander owns a league-best 1.08 ERA and 0.54 WHIP through 15 starts (92 innings), along with a staggering 146-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The two-time NL Cy Young winner has also allowed just 11 earned runs and driven in six as a hitter, and back in June, he became the fastest pitcher to record 100 strikeouts in a single season (61.2 innings) since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Martinez was head and shoulders above the league-average pitcher during baseball's steroid era, and his Cy Young campaign with Boston in 2000 is considered one of the greatest in the modern era. In 29 starts (217 innings), Martinez had a league-best 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts, and his microscopic 0.74 WHIP still ranks first in MLB history.
deGrom is expected to take the mound on Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. There, he'll look to continue his excellence, and chase Bob Gibson's single-season ERA record of 1.12, set back in 1968.
The entire MLB conversation between Millar and Tiki and Tierney can be accessed in the audio player above.