You may get them organized nevertheless you want to now that Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom are finally ensconced at the highest of the Mets’ pitching rotation. Each can be nearly every other team’s No. 1 starter, and, either way, you’re probably not selecting the order of the team’s rotation or the pitchers’ projected statistics; mostly you’re selecting the phrasing for an idea. Or a fantasy.
From 2016 to 2019, the National League’s 4 Cy Young Awards all went to Scherzer (then a Washington National) or deGrom (up to now, a profession Met). From 2016 to 2019, only two N.L. pitchers earned greater than 20 wins above alternative: Scherzer (27) and deGrom (24). With Scherzer and deGrom paired together, it’s easy to assume that they’ll make an excellent team only greater. How couldn’t they?
The last two weeks have given us a glimpse of what they could be, and it has been fairly spectacular. Scherzer and deGrom — in that order, to date — have began back-to-back games thrice, and even with deGrom still build up his endurance, they’ve mostly lived as much as their billing: 37⅓ innings, 25 hits, six earned runs, three walks … and 50 strikeouts.
Let’s tap the brakes though, nevertheless frivolously, on what this implies so far as the Mets’ improving.
For one thing, after Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets’ record was 75-40, which few people outside Latest York were talking about, mostly since the Los Angeles Dodgers have been even higher. However the Mets’ .652 winning percentage was just off the pace for a franchise record (set by the 1986 championship team, which won 108 games). Regardless of what form of player you add to a .652 team, the team will not be more likely to play higher than that (due to math that’s not actually complicated).
For one more, Scherzer and deGrom have been co-aces for 2 weeks, and it will not be fair yet to expect one other two uninterrupted months. DeGrom missed half of last season with an elbow injury and the primary 4 months of this season with a shoulder injury. Scherzer, in his first season with the Mets after signing a record-breaking contract, was on the injured list from mid-May through early July with a strained oblique muscle.
Together — finally — they may well turn into the premier pitching duo in the most important leagues (although Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have a claim to that). But they’d need to avoid the injured list, which hasn’t been a given for either of them in recent times.
But what if Scherzer and deGrom can stay healthy and within the Mets’ rotation? What in the event that they can pitch in addition to they did during their Cy Young seasons or in shorter stretches since then? Would we ever have seen anything quite like them?
By way of strikeouts, we probably haven’t. Amongst the various lots of of pitchers with no less than 1,000 innings of their major league careers, deGrom and Scherzer rank fourth and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings. But that’s primarily a function of this high-strikeout era; the three pitchers ahead of them in profession strikeout rate are also energetic this season. As are Nos. 7 and eight.
The pitcher with the sixth-best strikeout rate in history?
The Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. And it’s Johnson upon whom all fantasies about pitching duos should be measured. Because there has never been a more dominant pair of pitching teammates than Johnson and Curt Schilling, who reached their co-ace peak with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 and 2002.
Which isn’t to suggest that Johnson and Schilling are the one names that come to mind.
Before Christy Mathewson became a Latest York Giants legend, he was outmatched for a few seasons by his teammate Joe McGinnity, whose nickname was Iron Man.
For a couple of years within the Nineteen Fifties, Cleveland’s pitching staff included 4 future Hall of Famers, three of whom were of their prime. Amongst them was Early Wynn. In 1956, he and Herb Rating could have made a solid argument that they were the 2 best pitchers in baseball.
Within the Nineteen Sixties, the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were often spoken of as a unit, and in superlative terms. But Drysdale never got here particularly near matching peak Koufax (the latter’s real competition got here from National League rivals like Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal).
From 1975 to 1977, the Angels teammates Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana each won exactly 50 games and ranked first and second within the majors in strikeouts. (Tanana wasn’t remotely near Ryan, and no one else was near Tanana.) But mid-70s Ryan was still walking much more batters than anyone else, and usually was not considered the equal of fellow M.L.B. stars like Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton.
Within the Nineties, M.L.B.’s top duo was normally Greg Maddux and whichever of his Atlanta teammates was having his best season: Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and even Denny Neagle one yr. But during those years of dominance, there was never really an argument for an additional Atlanta pitcher because the game’s best (or second-best). If it wasn’t Maddux, it was Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez or Johnson.
Johnson, who first became a star in Seattle, signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks after the 1998 season. In 1999, just the franchise’s second season, he won his second Cy Young Award because the team rocketed into the playoffs. In 2000, he earned his third Cy Young; midway through that season, Arizona traded for Schilling, the ace of the Phillies, who proved to be good (but not great) down the stretch. Arizona finished third, and Manager Buck Showalter — 22 years before he got a dugout seat for the Scherzer and deGrom show in Latest York — got fired.
In 2001, Johnson won his third straight Cy Young Award and fourth overall. But his 21 wins weren’t enough for the league lead because Schilling won 22. That fall, Johnson and Schilling combined for nine postseason wins because the Diamondbacks rolled to a World Series championship, capped by Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off single against Mariano Rivera in Game 7 against the heavily-favored Yankees. Johnson and Schilling finished one-two in Cy Young balloting … after which did it again the following yr, with Johnson winning his fourth straight (no one else has won greater than three straight).
Things fell apart in 2003. While each Johnson and Schilling still had good years ahead — despite being of their late 30s — in 2003, neither was healthy all season and each finished with losing records. In those first two glorious seasons, though, they’d been the 2 best pitchers in the most important leagues and had all of the prizes and statistics — wins, strikeouts, E.R.A.s and wins above alternative (retroactively) — to prove it.
Major League Baseball had never seen anything quite like them, and might never again. For Scherzer and deGrom to even begin to match Johnson and Schilling, they’ll have to stay healthy the remainder of this season and next season, and do something spectacular in no less than one October. All while pitching in addition to they’ve ever pitched before. And, in fact, they’ve each pitched tremendously before.
The excellent news for the Mets? Nearly every World Series-winning team in history didn’t have the game’s two best pitchers, and even two truly great pitchers. There are many other ways to win, and the Mets were capable of find them as they waited for his or her aces to return.
Rob Neyer is the creator of several books about baseball, including “The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers,” written with Bill James. Neyer’s latest, “The Umpire Is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self,” is a collaboration with the previous umpire Dale Scott.