DeGrom’s domain reminds us of Gibson

Given the brilliant way Jacob deGrom has thrown this season when he’s been healthy enough to climb the mound, Bob Gibson has been mentioned a lot.

As deGrom prepares for his next outing Thursday against the Braves, his ERA in 13 starts is 0.69. No one has had such a brilliant figure at this point in a Major League season. So we’ve spent a lot of time analyzing what Gibson did in 1968, in a different time and in a very different world for starters, when the Hall of Famer finished that season with a 1.12 ERA.

In a world where elite starters like Gibson were expected to finish what they started, Gibson pitched 13 shutouts and 28 complete games that year, giving up just 49 runs in 304.2 innings of work. Due to injuries and the way that relief has changed baseball, deGrom has worked just 78.0 innings in 2021, in which he has given up six runs. But when he has been given the ball, it can be said that he has dominated the major league hitters as Gibson once did.

So I called on the man who hosted Gibson’s games in the ’60s and who became his best friend for life, great catcher Tim McCarver, who understands what we’re seeing from deGrom perhaps better than anyone.

The first thing he said was the following:

“It would be silly to compare someone with Bob.”

After that, we talk about what he witnessed from Gibson in his prime and what he’s seeing, in real time, with deGrom at his peak.

“[deGrom] He doesn’t need to be second Bob Gibson or anyone else, ”McCarver said. “We are going to value him for being the first Jacob deGrom.”

I asked McCarver how much Gibson – who died in October of pancreatic cancer – would have admired what we are all seeing from deGrom.

“Bob was savoring it,” McCarver said, “as only he did.” After a pause, he added, “The way deGrom throws would have appealed to Bob’s pitching intellect more than anything.”

He then returned to the subject of how easily deGrom seems to repeatedly throw the ball at 100 miles per hour.

“Ponder that,” he expressed to me. “’Easily’ and ‘hundred miles an hour’ are not supposed to go together. But it’s what deGrom is doing. He’s making a mess with those words. But with that said, I have to say that injuries worry me. I know that all pitchers have injuries and they all worry. But they worry more when it comes to a pitcher as special as this one ”.

McCarver refers to the discomfort deGrom has experienced this season in his shoulder, side and flexor muscles in his pitching arm. Those are the only things that – briefly, so far – have managed to get in the way of those 100 mph straights. We repeat: deGrom has worked just 78.0 innings before his departure against the Braves. In Gibson’s day, 78 innings was the equivalent of eight and a half starts. Therefore, it does not compare.

I asked McCarver what it was like to host Gibson’s games during their prime, that great season in 1968.

“My responsibilities made me somewhat minimalist,” McCarver said. “A blank swing, a third strike. Swing on target, third strike. Make some shots. Then another blank swing. ”

So, I asked him, “Well, you had to show him a finger or two (in the sign), right?”

“With Mr. Gibson there was no [señas de] fingers, ”he joked.

McCarver was also the Mets’ narrator in 1985 when a young Dwight Gooden starts became the kind of event deGrom’s starts have become, both at home and on the road. That was the season Gooden went 24-4 and finished with a 1.53 ERA.

“Yeah, it was like that with Doc,” McCarver said. “As it was with Nolan Ryan, and a lot.”

Ryan was durable like Gibson. Sandy Koufax was not. Two years before Gibson’s big campaign in 1968, Koufax retired due to chronic pain in his pitching elbow after four seasons with a 97-27 win-loss record and a three-time better than 2.00 ERA. . Koufax was two months away from his 31st birthday when he did. deGrom, who is pitching better than anyone in history when healthy, and better than anyone in baseball right now, is 33 years old.

DeGrom’s next outing will be Thursday night. I asked McCarver if he plans to tune in to the game.

“Oh sure yeah,” he replied.

It sounded like he wanted to order the game himself. But having hosted matches from the unrivaled Bob Gibson, McCarver will look up to the first Jacob deGrom.