There's no denying Jacob deGrom's ability. But health is becoming a major issue.
Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher many fans have ever seen. Over his last four seasons (581 IP), he's put up a 1.94 ERA, 205 ERA+, and has punched out 774 batters. That's helped him collect two Cy Young Awards and 24.8 bWAR. It's been a historically dominant run for the New York Mets ace.
And yet, as he enters his age-34 season, Jacob deGrom is facing a serious threat in the form of recurring arm injuries. This type of thing ruined his 2021 season after 92 innings, in what could have been the greatest pitching performance of all time (1.08 ERA, 373 ERA+). The same issues seem to be propping up in 2022; he's set to undergo an MRI on his right shoulder after feeling tightness while long tossing. Bad signs for a starting pitcher who throws harder than anyone.
It's tough to predict how or if Jacob deGrom will be able to get over these hurdles. One thing is for sure, though. When he does decide to hang up his spikes, his Hall of Fame candidacy will be a fiasco.
Hall of Fame Thresholds
There are written and unwritten rules when it comes to Hall of Fame candidacy. The main written rule in terms of relevance to deGrom is the 10-year career requirement. deGrom got a late start in the big leagues, breaking in at 26. If his current injury woes worsen to the point where they send him into an earlier-than-expected retirement, would they wave the rule for one of this era's most dominant pitchers? (I'd scrap this arbitrary rule, but that's another discussion).
The unwritten thresholds mostly involve counting stats, of which deGrom has precious little of. He has just 77 wins to his name, largely due to the comically-low amount of run support he's received, particularly during this last four-year stretch. It's fair to wonder if he even gets to triple digits. Wins are not the premier pitching stat anymore, thankfully. But electing a starter with less than 100 dubs would be unprecedented.
Then there's his lack of innings due to his late start and recent injuries. Plus his lack of playoff heroics (also not his fault). You could say he'd have a similar HOF case as Sandy Koufax, another dominant pitcher who didn't rack up as many numbers as other HOF starters. But he had the playoff memories, and even by the standards of brilliant-but-brief careers, he had far more on his résumé than deGrom.
As did Johan Santana...
The Next Johan?
I think Jacob deGrom should get into the Hall if he retired today, purely based off the peaks he was able to reach over a long-enough (to me) stretch. I fear his HOF candidacy could mirror that of Johan Santana, though, another pitcher with a shortened career that featured a handful of brilliant seasons and not a lot of chances for playoff glory. Santana fell off the ballot in 2018, his first year of candidacy, despite similar regular season numbers as the aforementioned Koufax. No one ever accused the BBWAA of being consistent.
I hope this is just some bullshit article we can look back on and laugh at, and that deGrom gets a clean bill of health and pitches for several more years. But it's not trending that way. His HOF case could be like none before him; an old-school vs. new-school debate for the ages.