Jacob deGrom can separate himself from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson on Tuesday night as the first big-league pitcher to amass 27 consecutive quality starts. He and Gibson are tied with 26.
DeGrom will set the record if he yields no more than three earned runs in at least six innings against the Twins at Citi Field.
Gibson was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA in 17 seasons with the Cardinals. He coached for the Mets under manager Joe Torre in 1981.
“Any time you’re mentioned alongside guys like that, it’s definitely an honor,” deGrom said. “I don’t think that much about it. When I go out there, it’s to put us into a position to win.”
The quality start was originated in the mid-1980s when then-Philadelphia Inquirer baseball writer John Lowe coined the term based on Whitey Herzog’s mantra of “all I want from my pitchers is six good innings.” Lowe calculated the innings and runs — three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA — and the term became so popular that it was applied to all starting pitchers past and present.
DeGrom’s streak began on May 18, 2018; Gibson’s was during the 1967 and 1968 seasons.
“I am glad that there is a quantifiable way to show what he’s doing and what he is achieving,” Lowe said from Seal Beach, California. “It would certainly seem to be an unmatched feat [for a starter] in the bullpen era.”
DeGrom, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season, has a 1.55 ERA in his 26-game streak. He’s given up 32 earned runs in 185 2⁄3 innings. Gibson allowed 23 earned runs in 229 innings for a 0.90 ERA.
DeGrom has a ways to go to challenge Gibson’s more historic record — his modern-era single-season ERA of 1.12 in 1968. Johnny Edwards caught 10 of Gibson’s 34 starts that season. “I think that will hold up forever,” Edwards said Monday from Magnolia, Texas.
Gibson had 28 complete games that season. Pointing to today’s fewer innings by starters, Edwards said, “If you have one bad game in there, the ERA will skyrocket. Maybe I’m wrong; I just think Gibson’s is going to be there forever.”
DeGrom is unscored upon in 13 innings this season and 26 overall dating to last season, when he had a 1.70 ERA. Dwight Gooden’s 1.53 in 1985 set the Mets record for starting pitchers.
“That’s low,” deGrom said of Gibson’s record ERA. “I don’t know about impossible. I don’t think anything’s impossible. But that’s really low.”
Gibson’s ERA in 1968 was a contributing factor in Major League Baseball’s decision to lower the mound from 15 inches to 10 in 1969. “I wasn’t aware of that,” deGrom said.
Gibson, 83, was not available for comment.
DeGrom’s teammates are not surprised at anything he does or might accomplish in the future. “Everybody knows he’s a superstar,” reliever Jeurys Familia said. “The way he pitches is the same way he pitched last year. I’m not that surprised. For me, he’s the best in the game. Best pitcher right now in ability. If he’s healthy, I won’t be surprised what number [ERA] he can put out there.”
Fellow starter Zack Wheeler said, “I don’t know if I’m amazed just because I know how good he really is. I think that’s just him as a pitcher now. So we’re getting kind of used to it, I guess you could say. But it’s impressive what he’s doing.”
Wheeler isn’t so sure about challenging Gibson’s ERA. “That would be very hard,’’ he said. “The hitters are very good, they make adjustments. There’s a lot of variables going against you. It would be very impressive to get a low ERA like that.’’
Pitching coach Dave Eiland added, “This guy’s so talented, so driven, uber-competitive. And if you’re around him for a while, then nothing he does surprises you. A lot of this game is confidence. The talent level, for the most part, it’s a pretty level playing field. It’s the ones that are confident and who test their ability and, for a pitcher, throw each pitch with conviction. That’s what Jacob deGrom does.”