MLB Network ran a poll asking who is presently the best pitcher in the major league baseball. The obvious answer is Jacob deGrom, the winner of two consecutive National League Cy Young awards. Will he win a third straight?
The answer is no. Why? In two words, Mickey Callaway. The former New York Mets manager had a lot to do with deGrom’s success these past two seasons. For all his foibles as a manager, Callaway is a pitching guru.
Before becoming the manager of the Mets, Callaway was the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians. Corey Kluber won two Cy Young awards with the Indians when Callaway was the pitching coach. Indians manager Terry Francona attributed the Indians World Series appearance to Callaway’s ability to prepare the pitching staff for games and in-game adjustments. Unfortunately, for Callaway, as a manager he often made the incorrect in-game adjustment which led to his dismissal as the Mets manager.
How much of a difference did Callaway make in deGrom’s performance? Let’s examine the FACTS. In 2017, deGrom’s ERA was 3.53. In 2018, the first year under Callaway’s tutelage, he recorded a microscopic ERA of 1.70, more than half the prior years. deGrom followed up 2018’s performance with another Cy Young and an ERA of 2.43, still more than a run per game better than 2017’s number.
You may say 2017 was an off year for deGrom. Okay, I will bite on that argument. Let’s examine the years prior. In 2016, he had an ERA of 3.04. In 2015, he had an ERA of 2.54. Do you see a pattern? In the years preceding Callaway’s arrival, deGrom’s ERA was going in the wrong direction. It was increasing every year per half a run.
Let me be clear. I am not arguing that the Mets should have retained Callaway as the Mets manager. As I previously noted, he was awful at in-game adjustments as a manager. But, as a pitcher’s friend, there is no one better. If you are looking for the best pitcher in baseball in 2020, examine the Anaheim Angels pitching staff. Callaway is their new pitching coach. That is where your 2020 American League Cy Young winner resides.