Jacob deGrom, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, made his highly anticipated first start with the Texas Rangers on this year's Opening Day against the Philadelphia Phillies. While the box score may not have been kind to deGrom, there's much more to his performance than meets the eye.
In 3.2 innings, deGrom allowed six hits, had five earned runs, gave out one home run, struck out seven, and had an ERA of 12.27. At first glance, these numbers may be concerning for Rangers fans who were eagerly anticipating deGrom's debut. However, it's essential to look deeper into his performance.
Statistically speaking, deGrom had a superb performance in his first start.
When you calculate deGrom's FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which considers only the factors that a pitcher can control (i.e., strikeouts, walks, and home runs), his performance was beyond excellent. Using a FIP constant of 3.2, deGrom's FIP was 2.93, indicating that he pitched much better than his traditional stats suggest.
One of the essential sabermetric stats in evaluating pitchers is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). FIP is a statistic that measures a pitcher's performance by focusing only on events within the pitcher's control, such as strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs. It takes fielding and luck out of the equation, giving a more accurate picture of a pitcher's skill.
Jacob deGrom has been a poster boy for the importance of FIP in evaluating pitchers. His traditional stats, like his win-loss record and earned run average (ERA), are good but not exceptional.
However, his FIP is consistently among the best in the league. In 2018, his FIP was a ridiculous 1.98, meaning that he was one of the best pitchers in the league despite playing on a team that ended that season below .500. In fact, his FIP has been among the best in the league every year since he became a full-time starter in 2015.
DeGrom's struggles on Thursday were not due to his pitches or pitch selection. Instead, they were due to factors out of his control, such as the ballpark or the defense behind him. Despite these challenges, deGrom's fastball fluctuated between 98-101 mph, while the opposing pitcher, Aaron Nola, didn't even come close.
Based on FIP, deGrom's only flaw was when he allowed a home run to Alec Bohm in the second inning with a 99.3 mph fastball after a 2-0 count.
DeGrom's performance was still nasty, as he struck out seven batters in just 3.2 innings. He showed dominance and command on the mound, throwing strikes and keeping hitters off balance.
In fact, the two-time Cy Young pitcher struck out swigging J.T. Realmuto with a 101 mph four-seam fastball to end the first inning.
While the traditional box score may not have looked great for deGrom in his first start with the Rangers, his FIP suggests nothing to worry about. He was simply unlucky, and factors out of his control contributed to his less-than-stellar stat line. Nevertheless, Rangers fans can still be excited about what deGrom brings to the table, and they can look forward to seeing him dominate on the mound in the future.