Jacob deGrom is a Strikeout Artist on Select Canvases

Pretend you didn’t read the headline of this article and try to guess which pitchers have the most strikeouts so far in July. The usual suspects of Max Scherzer, David Price, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, and Chris Sale were all in the top 12 after their first two starts of the month. The medalist entering Wednesday was Garrett Richards with 20 strikeouts. He is no surprise at the top of the list after the first half he has put together, one that could land him in the All-Star Game if he can win the fan vote. The man just behind him with 19 strikeouts? He’s more of a surprise.

Jacob deGrom was probably not the rookie pitcher you expected to help stabilize the Mets’ rotation this season, but with Rafael Montero having struggled in his four starts in the majors and with Noah Syndergaard having missed time because of an elbow strain, deGrom has taken advantage of his opportunity. His 3.39 FIP actually leads the team’s rotation, and he has been particularly effective lately. In addition to his 19 strikeouts over his last two starts, deGrom also struck out seven batters on June 21. Of the four total starts in which deGrom struck out seven or more batters, three of them have come in his most recent four starts.

DeGrom was not much of strikeout pitcher in the minors. In two seasons split between AA and AAA, deGrom struck out between six and a half and seven and a half batters per nine innings. This season in the majors, he has struck out eight and a half batters per nine. Perhaps we are witnessing the maturation of a young pitcher, but that would represent an atypical progression. I think there is a simpler explanation for deGrom’s recent strikeout totals.

All 19 of deGrom’s July strikeouts have come at the expense of the Atlanta Braves, and while it is impressive deGrom could have an encore performance of 11 Ks after having faced the team six days prior, if you were handicapping the teams a pitcher was most likely to perform that feat against, the Braves would be near the top of the list.

Struck out 7+ times by starter
Team Games
White Sox 34
Astros 33
Braves 32
Marlins 32
Reds 31
Padres 29
Phillies 26
Giants 26
Mariners 25
Rockies 25
Pirates 25

The Braves have struck out seven or more times against an opposing starter 32 times this season, which trails only the White Sox and George Springers…err, Astros. Meanwhile, the Marlins are tied with the Braves with 32 such games, and that is the team deGrom struck out seven times to start this four-game stretch.

The basic takeaway is to stream starters against those teams—as well as the Reds and Padres—if you are in need of some strikeouts. In addition, don’t expect deGrom to continue his swing-and-miss ways, but don’t trade him just yet. The Mets follow their series with the Braves with ones against the Marlins, Padres, and Mariners, and deGrom should have a pair of starts over that stretch. If this trend continues, his value would be at its peak as July winds down, perfect timing for leagues with a trade deadline that mirrors the real trade deadline.

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Scott Spratt contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. He is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @Scott_Spratt

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I would point out his velocity is up in recent starts

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Which seems to be tied to fixing a mechanical flaw (that of all things seems to have been discovered watching the TV replay of the game in his hotel room)


He obviously won’t strike out 11 every time out, but there’s more going on then just facing a strikeout prone team.


I picked up deGrom for that 11K start. Not because the Braves strike out a lot per se, but because they’re terrible against RHP and deGrom is a RHP.

For the year the Braves are 5th in OPS and 6th in SLG against LHP. Against RHP they’re 27th and 28th respectively.

It was also an away game for the Braves. In away games they’re 27th in OPS and 26th in SLG. In home games they’re 21st and 19th respectively.