Whenever this 2020 MLB season gets underway, Mets ace Jacob deGrom will be going after a feat only two pitchers in MLB history have accomplished before him.
A three-peat in Cy Young Awards has only been done by Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson -- two Hall of Fame starters that were just as dominant as deGrom has been in their primes. It's an entirely different situation this season, of course, with it being shortened. But deGrom is still at the top of his game, and many believe he can join these two in the record books.
But does deGrom also have to worry about his competition?
DeGrom is never one to focus on the rest of the pack -- as he should sitting atop the throne as the best pitcher in baseball. However, this season is unlike one we've ever seen before, and players gunning for awards like Cy Young or MVP have no room for error in their play. There is also the injury factor (knock on wood) that no player wants to deal with.
Of course, a dud from deGrom on the bump in a rarity, but who knows what will happen this year?
At the moment, PointsBet has the odds for deGrom winning the NL Cy Young Award for the third straight year at +300 (Odds with a + in front shows how much money would be won on a $100 bet. So, in this case, you'd win $300.) His top competition isn't too far, though.
Let's see where they stand and if deGrom should be worried they will overtake that throne by the end of the season...
Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (+400)
Why deGrom should be worried: Scherzer wasn't just a division rival, but one of deGrom's biggest competition for the award last season. He owned a 2.92 ERA in 27 starts with 243 strikeouts and 1.03 WHIP.
At the end of the year, Scherzer finished third in Cy Young voting with then-Dodgers hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu coming in second with a breakout season. He finds himself with a new deal in Toronto to play for the Blue Jays this season, so Scherzer would definitely be the one man deGrom would keep his eyes on. The battles between the two are always fun to watch, and since the season is shortened, there won't be that many this year.
DeGrom was able to eclipse 200 innings this season, but Scherzer never had the opportunity to do so after pitching in only 27 starts due to injury. If he did have 32 starts, third place might not have been the result for the Nats' ace last season. He still has electrifying stuff, and was close to striking out as many batters as deGrom in less time pitched, too.
Oh, and he's already won three Cy Youngs in the past including back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. DeGrom ruined a three-peat of his own in 2018.
Why deGrom has the upper hand: If there is a pitcher that you'd bet would toss a dud between these two, it would be Scherzer. While his stuff is electric, it is entirely dependent on his fastball location. If he gets behind hitters, Scherzer does have a tendancy to try and overpower hitters to get back into the count. The result isn't always what he likes, with hard contact coming along.
So, while Scherzer will still eat up innings, he can get knocked around. Ask the Mets when they tacked on four runs on eight hits in their first meeting with him last season. They did the same thing later on Sept. 3 with four runs across, too. The woeful Marlins somehow managed seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits in late April as well.
It isn't always like that for Scherzer, of course, but there really is no groove setting with this new season. You must be locked in from the start, and deGrom has always been that way.
Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler (+850)
Why deGrom should be worried: One of the best young and talented arms in the game, Buehler solidified himself as the team's ace last season with a 3.26 ERA to follow up his stellar 2.62 ERA he posted in 2018 with the Dodgers. Buehler has postseason experience, and at age 25, he could be even better in 2020.
Buehler has a nasty curveball, which seems to be the recipe for an LA ace (think Clayton Kershaw in his prime). But he also features a plus-fastball and tight slider that keeps hitters off balance. There is no doubt this Vanderbilt product is on the rise, as he was named to his first All-Star team last year, too. He has the stuff to compete for the Cy Young despite being ninth in voting last season.
Why deGrom has the upper hand: Buehler might not have the mileage on his arm like deGrom, but the latter is certainly in his prime as well.
So while Buehler is on the rise and could very well rival deGrom one day for being the best pitcher in the NL, deGrom trumps him with the experience he's got.
Buehler also showed last season that the scouting report may be out on him a bit. Six times last season Buehler allowed five or more runs, and two of them came in the first month of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals RHP Jack Flaherty (+1100)
Why deGrom should be worried: Flaherty's odds don't match his potential. He came in fourth in NL Cy Young voting last season with a 2.75 ERA over 33 starts. He also had 231 strikeouts and a sub-1.00 WHIP.
Another youngster at 24 years old, when Flaherty has command of his arsenal, he is very tricky to figure out at the plate. He has already proven he can go the distance, tossing 196.1 innings last season. And like Buehler, he's made himself the ace in St. Louis.
Also, if the schedules are made so that teams only play those in their geographical area, Flaherty does have the better schedule with the AL and NL Central noticeably less worrisome than the NL and AL East divisions.
Why deGrom has the upper hand: There is no denying that Flaherty is an up-and-comer that should've had an All-Star bid last season. But, once again, deGrom's experience will go a long way here.
Being that there are limited starts, each one might very well have a playoff feel to it. It might be nitpicking at this point, but Flaherty has shown spurts where he can get touched up, while deGrom very rarely has. What Flaherty has done in two seasons, deGrom has proven to do since 2014 when he broke into the league.