The Best Single Season Pitchers
Posted by JD on February 24, 2011
As one commenter noted, my previous list didn’t address pitchers who only played one year with the Mets. So, in the spirit of completeness, we’ll tackle that today. This list also has a caveat: I left R.A. Dickey (3.4 rWAR; would have tied for second on this list) off because, barring a surprise trade or some very unfortunate circumstances, he’ll be pitching for the Mets this year. With that being said, here we go:
9. & 10. Jack DiLauro and Juan Padilla (1.1 rWAR, 1969 and 2005): DiLauro was on the postseason roster in 1969 but didn’t appear in the NLCS or World Series. He was removed from the 40-man roster that offseason and selected by the Houston Astros. Even though DiLauro’s major league career lasted only two seasons, he had an interesting journey, bouncing around AAA before retiring at the age of 29.
Padilla represents a mild case of “what might have been”. Signed as a free agent after unsuccessful stints with the Reds and Yankees, Padilla had a decent season in 2005. His 1.49 ERA is a bit deceptive (he only struck out 17 in 36 1/3 innings of work and his 2.05 BABIP and 4.90 xFIP indicate he was more than a little lucky), but he should have been a part of the 2006 bullpen. Instead, Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2006 season. The Mets signed him to a minor league contract before the 2008 season but released him after only 14 innings and he’s been kicking around the independent leagues ever since.
6. 7. & 8. Hisanori Takahashi, Mark Bomback, and Kenny Rogers (1.3 rWAR, 2010, 1980, 1999): Takahashi’s stay with the club is still fresh in everyone’s mind, so I’ll just say this: I stand by this post. Omar Minaya should have traded Takahashi when he had the chance. He was a luxury item at the time and should have been converted into a younger, cheaper asset with more potential.
According to poster JFK at the Ultimate Mets Database, Bomback was given his nickname “Boom-Boom” from “the sound one heard when he was pitching–the sound of the ball off the bat and the sound of the ball hitting the wall afterwards.” He did lead the 1980 Mets in hits allowed, so there was probably more than a little truth behind it.
I’ve got nothing nice to say about Kenny Rogers, so I won’t say anything at all.
4. & 5. Mickey Lolich and Mark Guthrie (1.4 rWAR, 1976 and 2002): Lolich was acquired from the Detroit Tigers after the 1975 season, a season which saw him lose 18 games despite being worth 4.1 rWAR. This deal was unpopular with Mets fans at the time because the price to acquire Lolich was fan-favorite Rusty Staub, who was coming off a 105-RBI season (which was worth 3.1 rWAR). Although Staub never really came close to being the player he was in 75 again, Lolich “retired” from the Mets before the 1977. Staub went on to be worth 6.3 rWar to the Tigers, while Lolich was literally worth nothing.
Guthrie was acquired from the A’s (along with Tyler Yates) for David Justice, who had been acquired from the Yankees for Robin Ventura. So, in a way, you could say that the Mets acquired Guthrie for Ventura, I guess. I had been under the impression that Guthrie was a lefty specialist for the Mets, but his splits don’t really show it: he faced 103 righties vs. only 87 lefties. He held lefties to a .187 average, but righties only hit .221 against him and he actually had a slightly higher OPS+ against righties than lefties (60 to 57). That being said he was a decent reliever in a bullpen that, despite being maligned, wasn’t all that bad.
3. Orel Hershiser (1.9 rWAR, 1999): The Bulldog was a nemesis for Mets fans during the late 80’s, having a ridiculous Cy Young award winning season that culminated in shutting out the Mets in Game 7 of the NLCS. I know they won the World Series that year, but I really only remember one unbelievable at-bat from it: I wasn’t paying close attention after the Mets were eliminated. He signed with the Mets 11 years later He appeared in three games that post-season, the final one being the fateful Game 6 against the Atlanta Braves. Again, since I can’t say anything nice about Kenny Rogers, I won’t say anything at all. But I find it fascinating that Orel Hershiser appeared in two of the most painful post-season losses for the Mets.
2. Kevin Appier: (3.1 rWAR, 2001): Appier signed a 4-year, $42 million contract before the season, largely to replace the next pitcher on this list, and was traded away for Mo Vaughn after it. It seemed like an overpay to me at the time (after all, he only won 11 games that season), but now I’m not so sure. I’ve read several articles about the monetary value of a wins above replacement (I linked to a good one in this post). Though I don’t understand exactly how the values are calculated, I’ve seen them range between $4 and $5 million. In the interest of being extra-conservative (and not having access to the actual data as I write this), let’s say the value of 1 WAR in 2001 was $3 million. Using that scale, Appier was worth about $9 million that season: not much less than what the Mets actually paid him. Not bad, and not at all worth throwing away for Mo Vaughn.
On a related note, this post from Rany Jazayerli makes a great case for Appier to be elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s too late now, but the post is interesting nonetheless.
1. Mike Hampton (4.6 rWAR, 2000): “The Colorado school system”. Those four words will forever be associated with Mike Hampton in the minds of Mets fans. Sure, he spurned our favorite team and gave us a lame reason to justify it. But, through the lens of time, I’d argue that he did us a great favor: he was never the same pitcher after 2000. He struggled with the altitude in Colorado, struggled with injuries in Atlanta, and accumulated just 3.3 rWAR in the years after he left the Mets (or, just about what Appier gave them in 2001). In the end, it all worked out: Hampton put his kids in the school system of his choice, and Mets fans didn’t have to watch him clog their payroll. A reall win-win situation.