The Great Debate: Jacob deGrom or Gerrit Cole?

In recent years, there has been much debate as to who the two best pitchers in the game are. At the height of this argument, the names Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole come to the forefront. Ironically, both of them happen to pitch in the same city, one for the Yankees and one for the Mets, creating even more of a rivalry. But when it comes down to it, who’s actually better? Let’s dive into it.

deGrom’s Basic Stats

Our first candidate is the two-time National League Cy Young winner: Jacob deGrom.

At first glance, fans of the old school numbers will be quick to be turned off from deGrom. In his seven-year career, deGrom holds a career 70-51 record. Not bad, but not the most impressive win-loss record in the history of baseball over seven years, either. To take wins and losses into account, though, you have to realize that deGrom gets almost no run support.

When you dive deeper into his numbers, though, you’ll realize that deGrom is much better than that one stat may show.

Looking at the stats that may be considered “old-school” aside from his win-loss record, deGrom holds a career 2.61 ERA, which is better than the Hall of Fame average for pitchers of 3.00 by almost a quarter of a run. Granted, he is still three years away from even being eligible for the Hall, but with a player his caliber, the conversation has already begun.

deGrom also holds a career 1.047 WHIP, or walks+hits per innings pitched, which is also far better than the Hall of Fame average of 1.197. This creates a differential of 0.150. To translate, he allows about 15% fewer baserunners than the average Hall of Famer.

He also has 1359 strikeouts in 1169 2/3 innings, good for a 10.5 K/9 stat, as well as only walking 284 batters and allowing 102 home runs in his seven-year career.

deGrom’s Advanced Stats

Looking at the more advanced stats, he holds a career 2.75 FIP, which is the best in Major League history. FIP is essentially a more accurate ERA. It stands for fielding independent pitching. As its name implies, takes into account walks, strikeouts, home runs, and basically anything but balls in play.

deGrom holds a career 150 ERA+, where 100 is league average. deGrom is fourth in career ERA+, and he ranks third among starters and second among active players. The three pitchers ahead of him are Mariano Rivera, Clayton Kershaw, and Pedro Martinez. There isn’t much doubt that any of these four pitchers are worthy of the Hall, with two of them already in.

Cole’s Basic Stats

Our second candidate in this debate is Yankee ace and three-time all-star Gerrit Cole.

Cole has pitched in eight career seasons, including the 2020 coronavirus-shortened season. The extra season in Cole’s career is evident in the cumulative career stats, so keep that in mind with stats like strikeouts.

That said, Cole has a career 101-55 record with a 3.19 ERA, which is far from a bad career stat over the course of an eight-year career. It is slightly worse than the Hall of Fame average, though. 19 points is far from a large difference considering we are looking at the top pitchers in Major League history. There are plenty of pitchers with career ERAs higher than Cole that are in the Hall.

Looking at his WHIP, Cole holds a 1.119 career number, which is still below the Hall of Fame average. He is right around that average, though. He is just 0.078 below the average, which is still a fantastic stat, but not the best listed here.

Along with these stats, Cole has 1430 Ks in 1268 career innings, good for 10.1 K/9. He has walked 332 batters and allowed 129 homers.

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Cole’s Advanced Stats

When you look at Cole’s FIP, Cole is not bad by any stretch, but the advanced metrics are not very nice to the Yankee ace. He has a career 3.11 FIP, which is still solid considering it doesn’t include anything that pertains to the defense. Cole relies on his defense a bit more than deGrom, and he also allows more homers.

In terms of ERA+, Cole holds a career 128 mark. That’s good for 28% above Major League average, which is a significant number. He is 50th of all time in that stat, in fact, and eighth among active pitchers. Impressive, sure, but this isn’t as impressive as deGrom. As I mentioned before, the advanced metrics aren’t favorable to Cole.

Who’s better?

At the end of the day, both Mets and Yankees fans have futures to look forward to in terms of their number one starters. Both aces are no-doubt Hall of Famers. That is evident due to their extremely close or superior numbers to the Hall of Fame average.

If I had to pick one of them, I would have to say that the better pitcher is Jacob deGrom. Looking at the numbers, the argument doesn’t even make too much sense. deGrom’s numbers are far better than Coles’, with Cole not holding many true advantages.

This is not to say that Cole is a bad pitcher in the grand scheme of things, but upon looking at the stats, Jacob deGrom is simply better than Cole. His averaged stats ranging as simple as ERA or K/9 to as complex as FIP and ERA+ aren’t all that close. deGrom’s ERA is 58 points better, meaning he allows half a earned run less than Cole on average. He strikes out .4 batters more per 9 innings pitched. He is far better than Cole in terms of FIP. ERA+ is another example of deGrom’s superiority. Looking at this, there is really no argument in favor of Cole once bias is removed.

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