New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was named the National League Cy Young Award winner Wednesday, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes. The right-hander is the seventh NL pitcher to win the award at least two years in a row.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, the major league ERA leader, finished second in voting and was the only other player to receive a first-place vote. Three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals was third.
DeGrom, 31, joins Randy Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Scherzer, Greg Maddux and Sandy Koufax on the list of NL back-to-back winners, and he had to rebound from a slow start to the season to capture his second award.
On May 17, deGrom allowed nine hits and seven runs in five innings in a loss to the Marlins. The reigning Cy Young winner was nine starts into his season, and he was 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA.
"I feel like I was trying to better what I did in 2018," deGrom said Wednesday. "I think that was something I struggled with to start this year, was kind of dwelling on what happened last year. Kind of not focusing on the task ahead as much as I probably should have."
He didn't have too many terrible starts after that.
DeGrom kicked back into his 2018 form and posted a 1.89 ERA the rest of the season to finish 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA and a league-leading 255 strikeouts in 204 innings. He's the 20th pitcher in MLB history to win multiple Cy Young Awards and 11th overall to win the award in consecutive seasons.
"It was a dream to play this game and a dream to win one Cy Young," he said. "To win back to back was a goal. It's hard to explain. You set these goals, but it almost doesn't feel real yet."
Because of the slow start, deGrom wasn't quite as dominant as in 2018, when he posted a 1.70 ERA and claimed 29 of 30 first-place votes in the Cy Young voting. Still, in 2019, he led NL pitchers in both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs WAR, strikeouts and lowest OPS allowed while finishing second in ERA, second in WHIP, third in innings and third in ERA+.
In his final 23 starts, he allowed more than two runs just four times: three runs twice and four runs twice. One of the three-run outings included three unearned runs. He closed the season with a flourish, with three consecutive scoreless starts of seven innings apiece and nine hits allowed in 21 innings.
DeGrom's final start came on the day the Mets were eliminated in the wild-card race. "That would mean a lot. It'd be a huge honor," he said of winning a second Cy Young Award. "I guess you do kind of set personal goals, but tonight we fell short of a team goal. So it's kind of mixed emotions, and nobody in here is real happy that we're eliminated."
Similar to in his 2018 season, when he won 10 games, deGrom was once again plagued by poor run support. Three times he allowed no runs and didn't get a win. Four times he allowed one run and came away with a no-decision. He allowed two runs in eight starts and went 3-2 in those games.
DeGrom joins three-time winner Tom Seaver as a multiple Cy Young winner in Mets history. R.A. Dickey and Dwight Gooden are also Mets Cy Young winners. DeGrom should have more opportunities to win a third Cy Young Award in a Mets uniform: He signed a five-year, $137.5 million extension in spring training (though the contract includes an opt-out clause after 2022).
Ryu had his best season in the majors in 2019, going 14-5 with a league-best 2.32 ERA. He looked like the Cy Young favorite through Aug. 11, when he was 12-2 with a 1.45 ERA and had allowed more than two earned runs in a game once. In his final starts, however, he went 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA, including two seven-run outings. He pitched fewer innings than deGrom, with a 182⅔, and was less dominant, with 163 strikeouts.
Scherzer, who won back-to-back Cy Youngs with the Nationals in 2016 and 2017, also faded down the stretch, slowed by back and neck issues that popped up again during the World Series. He was 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA at the All-Star break, but he made just one start between July 6 and Aug. 22. In five starts in September, he had a 5.16 ERA. He finished 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 172⅓ innings.