New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is human after all.
After allowing six runs over four innings in Tuesday’s 14-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins, his historic streak of quality starts came to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
A quality start requires a pitcher to throw at least six innings, while allowing no more than three runs. There's no wiggle room there either. Four runs, regardless of the innings pitched, or less than six innings, regardless of the run total allowed, does not qualify as a quality start.
With that in mind, deGrom’s streak was a run of consistent brilliance matched by few in MLB history. DeGrom’s streak ends at 26, which equaled the all-time record set by St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson between the 1967 and 1968 seasons.
During this stretch, deGrom elevated his stock from being on the verge of greatness to becoming one of the truly elite hurlers in the game today. It helped him secure his first National League Cy Young award last season. It also helped him land a huge contract extension. The 30-year-old right-hander recently signed a $137.5 million deal that will keep him in New York through the 2023 season.
Now the question is: With deGrom's streak over, where does his run rank among the best we've ever seen for a pitcher?
Here are some other contenders:
Don Drysdale's six consecutive shutouts
From May 14 through June 4, 1968, Dodgers Hall of Fame starting pitcher Don Drysdale was lights out. Drysdale pitched six consecutive nine-inning shutouts, which also helped him set the former record for most consecutive scoreless innings with 58. To put that in perspective, only one pitcher in MLB since 1989 has pitched six shutouts in a single season. That was Cliff Lee, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, in 2011.
Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive scoreless innings
Hershiser finished the 1988 regular season on a remarkable roll. He went the entire month of September without allowing a run, and in the process topped the record previously set by Drysdale. If playoff games were included, Hershiser would have run his streak to 67 innings after throwing eight scoreless in Game 1 of the NLCS against the New York Mets.
The closest anyone has come to challenging Hershiser was yet another Dodger right-hander. Zack Greinke tossed 45.2 scoreless innings between June 18 and July 26 in 2015.
Bob Gibson 78 straight starts of at least six innings
On Sept. 12, 1967, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson began a streak of pitching at least six innings in every start that lasted until May 2, 1970. Within that incredible streak was Gibson's 26 straight quality starts and a 47-inning scoreless streak that ranks third during MLB's modern era.
Jack Taylor's 39 consecutive complete games
Now we're going back into the dead-ball era, where complete games were actually routine and pitching numbers were on another level.
St. Louis Cardinals hurler Jack Taylor threw 39 consecutive complete games from April 15 through Oct. 6 in 1904. That's 39 in one season. Nowadays, pitchers make 35 starts, at most, during a single season, and only a handful record more than one complete game in a single season.
In fact, the last pitcher to even reach double digits was James Shields when he recorded 11 for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.
Where does deGrom’s streak rank?
It’s tough to compare the different eras against one another. You obviously don’t want to brush what Taylor and other late 19th century and early 20th century pitchers did to the side. At the same time, you can’t pretend the game is anywhere near the same.
They’re all truly impressive when put into context. However, it’s nearly impossible to rate anything above or at the same level of Gibson’s 1967-68 stretch.
Of Gibson’s 26 consecutive quality starts, 20 were nine-inning complete games. Beyond that, Gibson pitched into extra innings multiple times during the streak. In fact, Gibson’s quality start streak ended in a game where he pitched 11 innings, but ended up allowing four runs. If you removed that outing, Gibson’s streak would have reached 34.
Drysdale's six straight shutouts are on another level as well. It's a smaller time frame, but that is pure dominance.
That's not to say deGrom can't or won't get back on track next time out and start a new streak that makes us reconsider where his current run places in history. For now, he still has some work to do. But we tip our cap to what he’s accomplished.
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