Thursday, January 13, 2011

All-Time Team: New York Mets (pitchers)

Continuing my most recent entry, here is the Mets' all-time rotation.  Don't worry, fans of the other 29 teams, your team's time will come one day.

SP: Tom Seaver, 1967-1977: 75.8 WAR/136 ERA+/198-124
Well of course.  Seaver is one of the best pitchers of all-time, and is both the only Met in the Hall of Fame and the only Mets player to have his number retired by the team (though that should change soon with Piazza's #31).  His resume: 1967 Rookie of the Year; 1969, 1973, and 1975 Cy Young Awards; the gaudy stats in this heading; and other notable Mets career statistics, such as a 1.076 WHIP, 2541 strikeouts, and 44 shutouts.  This entry will be very brief because there's not much to say.  Seaver was awesome and won't ever be usurped from his position at the top of the Mets all-time rotation.

SP: Dwight Gooden, 1984-1994: 41.2 WAR/116 ERA+/157-85
Gooden could have overtaken Seaver, but drugs and a mid-career decline ensured that it was not to be.  Much like with Darryl Strawberry (see yesterday's post), however, that doesn't mean that Gooden's accomplishments should be diminished (though they sometimes are, unfortunately).  From 1984-1988, his first five seasons in the majors, he averaged 18 wins a season with a 2.62 ERA and 213 strikeouts.  With 91 wins and 1067 strikeouts under his belt by the age of 23 (I know; crazy, right?) Gooden had already earned himself a place at the top of pantheon of Mets starters.  His next six years were fine (with 1990 and 1993 probably his best years), but nothing close to his earlier success.  While most people will always ask "what could have been?" I am content with what was.  Gooden helped lead the Mets to a World Series title, and racked up the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards along the way.  For that, he could be deserving of a #1 spot, but I assume he'd be all right playing second fiddle to Seaver.

SP: Jerry Koosman, 1967-1978: 41.8 WAR/113 ERA+/140-137
Koosman almost made the cut for my article on players who should be in the Hall of Fame, but barely missed it.  He would have been on my top twenty list for sure.  Anyway, despite being overshadowed by Tom Seaver, Koosman was very good as the Mets #2 pitcher from 1968-1978.  Over those eleven seasons he averaged a 13-12 record with a 3.07 ERA (114 ERA+), 163 strikeouts, and a 3.8 WAR.  Not Hall of Fame numbers, but they're very solid nonetheless.  Koosman thrived by being very above average for a very long period of time, though he did have moments of greatness.  He had four seasons with a WAR greater than 5 (defined as "All-Star level") and finished second in the Cy Young voting in 1976.  He was never particularly flashy or exciting, but he was a key cog in two World Series rotations (one victorious, one unfortunately not) and is still one of the best Mets pitchers of all-time.

SP: Al Leiter, 1998-2004: 26.3 WAR/124 ERA+/95-67
The pitcher of my childhood, Leiter actually managed to get four Hall of Fame votes this year.  I won't claim to think that Leiter was a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher--he emphatically wasn't--but he was more than serviceable as the Mets' sometimes ace from 1998-2004.  Although he was twice usurped from the (un)official title of "ace," first by Mike Hampton and then by Tom Glavine, Leiter was better and lasted longer than either of those pitchers.  In his first year with the Mets, Leiter won 17 games with a 2.47 ERA and was one of the best pitchers in the league.  In 1999 his production fell a bit, but he will always be remembered for pitching the Mets over the Reds and into the postseason in the 163rd game of the season.  In 2000 he was slotted behind Hampton in the rotation, but pitched at basically the same level (Leiter actually had a .1 higher WAR).  From 2001-2004 the Mets weren't very good, but Leiter still averaged a 12-10 record with a 3.50 ERA (119 ERA+) over those four years.  In his last year, his seventh with the Mets (at age 38), he went 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA and a 4.2 WAR.  It was probably time to let him go--he was old, the Mets were trying to completely remodel the franchise--but that didn't stop me from agonizing over the Mets' decision to not tender him a contract for 2005, even if I knew it was the correct one.  Back when he was pitching, Leiter was acknowledged as a very good pitcher, but that seems to have faded since he basically left our consciousness. It's undeserved, though.  He was one of the very best the Mets have had.

SP: Jon Matlack, 1971-1977: 27.0 WAR/115 ERA+/82-81
It's a really close race for the fifth spot in this rotation between Matlack and Sid Fernandez.  While the two had fairly comparable statistics, Fernandez got his by being above average for a long period of time.  Matlack, on the other hand, had two great seasons and four adequate years.  It's those two seasons--and the fact that, had the Mets been better during Matlack's tenure with the team, he would have racked up many more wins than he actually registered--that force me to pick Matlack.  His rookie season, for which he won the 1972 Rookie of the Year award, was quite incredible (15-10, 2.32 ERA, 6.7 WAR), as was his 1974 (13-15, 2.41 ERA, 8.6 WAR).  Matlack actually only had one bad season, and in the other three (that I previously categorized as "adequate") he averaged sixteen wins and a 3.17 ERA (a surprisingly low 109 ERA+).  The Mets were a very average team in the first half of the 1970s, and the fact that he lost 81 games while pitching to a 3.03 ERA suggests that a lot of Matlack's losses are due to bad luck.  He petered out at the end of his Mets career, and didn't regain his magic during six mostly average years with the Rangers.  His 1972-1976, were some of the best pitching seasons in Mets history, and I feel compelled to give him the final spot in this rotation.

CL: John Franco, 1990-2004: 12.8 WAR/132 ERA+/276 SV
I've already argued for John Franco's induction into the Hall of Fame (a moot point now), so it makes sense that he would be my pick for the best Mets closer of all-time.  Although he was shaky at times (a blown saves  percentage of 19% is not good news), Franco's seven years with an ERA+ over 150 and Mets-record 276 saves speak to both his longevity and general dominance.  He was forced out of his role by the next entry in this list, but continued to serve as a more than functional reliever.  (He even gave up his treasured #31 to Mike Piazza.)  For a more extensive analysis of Franco's career, see my article on this year's Hall of Fame ballot (linked to at the beginning of this paragraph).  As a Met, though, he was one of the best closers in the game, and the best the Mets ever had.

RP: Armando Benitez, 1999-2003: 10.6 WAR/159 ERA+/160 SV
When Benitez was on, he was on.  He holds three of the top seven spots for Mets closer seasons, sorted by WAR.  In 1999, his first year with the team, he pitched to a 1.85 ERA (241 ERA+) with 22 saves (he more or less shared the role with Franco).  However, while he remained solid for the next four seasons, he would soon come to be remembered for something less-than-ideal: blown saves.  He coughed up game one of the 2000 World Series and let the Braves make a heartaching comeback to basically end the Mets' late September surge in 2001 (fun fact: that was the last time I cried about the result of a baseball game).  Halfway through the dismal 2003 season, despite the fact that he was still one of the most dominant closers in the game, the Mets got tired of Benitez and traded him to the Yankees.  I won't ever forgive him for either of his notable blown saves, but as I am more rational now than I was in 2001 I can see Benitez for what he really was: one of the best Mets closers of all-time.

RP: Jesse Orosco, 1979-1987: 12.2 WAR/133 ERA+/107 SV
Orosco actually has better statistics than most people probably remember.  Over his six (was it really that few?) full seasons with the Mets, Orosco had an ERA+ above 128 five times.  While Darryl Strawberry gets all the attention for his performance during the 1983 season, Orosco had a 1.47 ERA (248 ERA+) with 17 saves (not so bad when you consider that the league leader had 29 and that the Mets only won 68 games all year).  Orosco is also most notable for being on the mound to close out both the 1986 NLCS and World Series (the former of which he almost blew).  Orosco never overpowered, save for his 1983, but managed to find his way onto this list due to a combination of his solid and steady play, and the weakness of the other closers in Mets' history.  The two next best closers, after Orosco, are Billy Wagner and Tug McGraw.  The former didn't play for long enough, though, and the latter has compelling statistics, but they're just slightly worse than Orosco's.  It's close, but Orosco wins out.  (Also, this photo is still awesome.)


  1. It must be mentioned that Seaver struck out 19 Padres ... including finishing the game with ten in a row.

    Seaver ... 6th all time in career Ks ... is the only pitcher to strike out 200 plus batters nine consecutive seasons.

    Of the five players with more strikeouts in a career, only Roger Clemens comes closest with seven consecutive seasons.

    Bert Blyleven six seasons ...

    Steve Carlton three seasons ...

    Randy Johnson five ( but his four consecutive seasons of 364, 347, 372 and 334 need to be mentioned) ...

    and Nolan Ryan five seasons (but he did it twice) ... between the six seasons of 1972-1977 he topped 300 Ks five times ... and in 1982 at age 42 struck out 301.

    Sandy Koufax finished his career with six straight seasons and topped 300 in three of those.


    Ryan struck out 301 in 1989 ( not 1982 ) age 42