Being stuck in quarantine with no sports naturally leaves us craving sports content and debate, and what’s better than a classic Mets versus Yankees? Both teams have good, young cores, but which squad has the best superstars? For the Mets, they’ve got Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso, and for the Yankees, they’ve got Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge. Jorge Eckardt and Ben Berg debate which duo they’d rather have.
I take Jake and Pete 10 times out of 10. This one is a no-brainer for me, and it’s not just because I’m a Mets fan. Starting with the pitchers, Jake is clearly superior. The back-to-back National League Cy Young Award winner has been better than Cole since he entered the league, and that’s not even an exaggeration. Since deGrom’s rookie season in 2014, he has had a better ERA every single season. Cole has been in the league for seven seasons to deGrom’s six, yet Jake leads him in career WAR 35.5 to 23.9. Sure, Cole’s best years have come in the past two seasons with Houston, and in that time, deGrom still leads Cole in pitching WAR 17.4 to 12.3. Now onto the batters, I will admit that this one is a little bit closer, but I still take Pete. For one, Alonso beat Judge’s rookie home run record last season (with definitely completely normal baseballs). Sure, Judge does have two more years on Alonso, but what exactly has he done in those years to prove he’s worthy? Missed 110 games due to injury? Have his at-bats per home run drop from about 13 to 17.5? Judge hasn’t done anything since his rookie season to warrant his superstar status that people still insist he has, and while Pete doesn’t have a lot of experience under his belt, it’s enough to overtake Judge.
On July 31, 2019, Jacob deGrom struck out Yolmer Sanchez in the 7th inning.
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) March 25, 2020
Let’s start with the pitchers. I’ll admit, if I had to take one guy’s career up to this point I’d take deGrom too, but the question is about which duo you’d rather have moving forward. And right now, there isn’t a more unhittable pitcher on the planet than Gerrit Cole. He led the league in strikeouts with 326 in 2019, which was 26 more than second-place Justin Verlander, 67 more than third-place Shane Bieber and 71 more than the fourth-place deGrom. Other than that, their basic pitching stats were all very similar. Furthermore, Cole had better numbers than last year’s Cy Young-winner, Justin Verlander, so it’s hard to hold that against him too much. Now let’s get to the batters. You said this one was closer but I disagree; Gimme Aaron Judge over Pete Alonso in a landslide (I may or may not be writing to you wearing an Aaron Judge jersey right now). Yes, Pete Alonso broke the rookie home run record (set by Judge), but he did by only one homer in a year where the longball was up 11% from 2018 across the league and 20% from any other year in MLB history. If not for an oblique injury that derailed Judge’s entire season and caused him to miss 60 games, he might have hit a similar amount in 2019 (he actually hit 27 but was on a tear down the stretch). Judge also has a career batting average of .273 compared to Alonso’s barely-above-league-average .260. Furthemore, Judge is a gold-glove-caliber fielder, and Alonso struggles in that area despite playing the easier position. In 2019, Alonso committed more errors (12) than Judge has in his entire career (9), let alone 2019 (0). Add in the fact that Judge is the go-to leader on one of the best teams in the MLB and you’ve got the better all-around ball player.
Yes, Cole did strike out a noticeable more number of batters than deGrom in 2019, but frankly, it doesn’t matter how many batters you strikeout if you give up more runs. The only thing that matters is how many opposing players cross home plate (per nine innings of course), and Jake has consistently beaten Cole in that arena. I don’t care if you get them to whiff, ground out or fly out as long as they head back to the bench. And if they do get on base, I care about if you can work out of trouble, something that deGrom is a master at. As for Pete, I will cede the fact that he is a weaker fielder than Judge, but he’s by no means enough of a liability to outweigh the other factors working in his favor. Particularly, he actually stayed on the field. You said it yourself, he might have hit a similar number of home runs in 2019 if not for his oblique injury that derailed his entire season, but the injury should not be pushed aside that easily. For the second straight season, Judge missed a significant portion of time on the IL. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gold-glove-caliber fielder. It doesn’t matter if you have a slightly higher batting average. It doesn’t matter if you’re the “go-to leader on one of the best teams in the MLB.” It matters if you’re actually on the field. Until Judge strings not just one but a couple healthy years together to prove he’s not always going to be an injury liability, I’m taking Pete. Jake and Pete for the win.
One week ago when batters’ biggest problem was hitting Gerrit Cole
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) March 18, 2020
There is no doubt deGrom is the runaway best pitcher in the National League, but Cole was a different beast in the playoffs. Cole went 4-1 en route to the World Series, pitching 36.2 innings and allowed only 7 runs and struckout another 47 batters for good measure. This was against some of the best hitters in the world mind you. When it comes to Judge, I understand that the best ability is availability, but it’s easier to rack up games missed when you’ve been in the league much longer than Alonso. In his rookie season Judge was healthy throughout, so it’s not a fair comparison. You said it yourself, you need to string together “a couple healthy years” to not be an injury liability. Furthermore, the Yankees have overhauled their (historically incompetent) medical staff, so there’s legitimate reason for hope that this year won’t be as injury-plagued as the previous two (I know that he’s already hurt, but that injury was sustained during last year’s playoffs and went unnoticed by that staff). When healthy, Judge is the better player, and hey, maybe he’ll actually stay healthy this year. Or let’s just hope that there actually is a season at all.