To find the one team with a better three-year WAR total than next year’s Phillies, whose aces have 59.7 WAR, look no further than the 1976 Mets staff of Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman and Mickey Lolich (with 63.4 WAR). This is not to say that the Mets had the best season ever by a group of starters in 1976; rather, the Mets came into the 1976 season with the deepest staff in history, based on their performances over the previous three years.
Baseball-Reference’s Sean Forman takes a look at baseball’s best front fours for the Times. The final 1976 tallies for those four Mets pitchers:
- Tom Seaver 14-11, 2.59 ERA, 5.7 WAR
- Jerry Koosman 21-10, 2.69 ERA, 4.6 WAR
- John Matlack 17-10, 2.95 ERA, 4.1 WAR
- Mickey Lolich 8-13, 3.22 ERA, 1.4 WAR
Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack pitched up to their expectations, while Lolich was the lone disappointment of sorts. The front three all had ERAs below 2.95, but Shea Stadium depressed run scoring by about 6% in the 1970s. The ERAs are somewhat deflated and look a bit more impressive than they really are.
Seaver pitched 23.2 more innings than Koosman and had a lower ERA, but Koosman wound up with seven more wins and one less loss. The reason? The Mets scored 4.3 runs per game in Koosman’s starts (and 4.7 in Matlack’s), but just 3.4 in Seaver’s starts. It was a tough year for Seaver. Seven of his eleven losses came in quality starts, and the bullpen blew three wins for him. In late July, he pitched a ten innings of shutout ball against the Pirates and walked away with a no decision, and he lost two complete games. For comparison, the bullpen blew no wins for Koosman, and he managed to pick up four wins in non-quality starts.