SAN DIEGO — Major League Baseball’s modern, single-season ERA record belongs to Dutch Leonard, who produced a 0.96 mark in 1914. Over the past century, no pitcher has managed to top Bob Gibson, whose 1.12 ERA highlighted a 1968 campaign so thoroughly dominated by pitchers that the league responded by lowering the mound from 15 to 10 inches.
For decades, these types of records seemed unlikely ever to be broken. And yet in delivering seven more shutout innings Saturday night in a 4-0 win over the Padres, Jacob deGrom lowered his own ERA to 0.62 — the lowest by a pitcher through his first nine starts since earned runs became an official statistic in both leagues in 1913.
Lower than Leonard, in other words, at the same point in 1914. Lower than Gibson through nine starts in 1968. Lower than Pedro Martínez in 2000, Dwight Gooden in 1985 or anyone else who has stamped his name on the short list of Greatest Pitching Seasons of All-Time.
Whether this type of thing is sustainable over six months remains to be seen, as one of the burning questions for the rest of 2021: How low can deGrom go?
He entered Saturday’s outing with an already microscopic 0.71 mark, then set about shaving it further with scoreless inning after scoreless inning at Petco Park. The only real trouble deGrom ran into occurred in the fourth inning, when a Francisco Lindor error led to the Padres loading the bases with one out. deGrom struck out the next two batters in succession to preserve a scoreless tie.
Half an inning later, José Peraza and Lindor both homered to give deGrom the lead. He wound up pitching seven innings, at which point manager Luis Rojas cut him short in his third start back from the injured list. deGrom also struck out 11 batters to pass Sid Fernandez for fourth place on the Mets’ all-time list.