Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #37, Bret Saberhagen:
These have been running a bit longer than I’ve wanted, so I’m going to attempt to shorten some of them up. The idea is that this list is supposed to supplement regular blogging, and not totally take it over.
Anyway. Bret Saberhagen.
For whatever reasons, I like it when a player’s personality is reflected in their stats. Jose Reyes is a jumpy, perhaps impatient, but ultimately energetic player. You could almost learn all that from his stats: he steals a lot of bases, hits plenty of triples and home runs, but maybe doesn’t walk as much as some would like. His energy and impatience are right there on his Baseball-Reference page, if you look close enough. This makes me happy for some reason, as if there was some form of baseball numerology to be discovered in stats. I imagine it’d be fun if you could discover what sort of music Jonathan Sanchez likes just by looking at his home runs allowed rate: “Oh, one home run per nine innings pitched? He must listen exclusively to JC Chasez’ solo album.”
Unfortunately, Bret Saberhagen disproves this theory. As a pitcher, he had excellent control: he issued just 77 walks over his 76 games pitched for the Mets. In 1994 he had more wins (14) than walks issued (13), and he had exactly 11 times as many strikeouts (143) as walks, which is the best strikeout to walk ratio in major league history — he was Cliff Lee before Cliff Lee. Had Saberhagen pitched after the mainstreaming of sabermetrics, his last name would have supplied an infinite number of puns, particularly for those of us who like baseball and don’t get out much.
On the other hand, Saberhagen’s statistics do not reflect his off-field misadventures — while the picture of control on the mound, he was a trouble maker off the field, particularly towards reporters. Saberhagen once set off fireworks in the clubhouse near a group of media. “I wanted to get people’s attention,” he said at the time. “There are always tons of reporters here when something bad is happening. I don’t like a lot of them.” Later that same season, he sprayed a crowd of reporters with a supersoaker full of bleach, a payload he claimed was meant for someone else . . . because that makes it better somehow, I guess. Both incidents resulted in multi-week investigations by the Mets, eventually pressuring Saberhagen into confessing. The bleach incident earned him a five game suspension at the beginning of the 1994 season, as well as the donation of one day’s pay. Harsh.
Saberhagen’s Mets career is complete control on the mound, and an out of control child in the clubhouse. So much for baseball numerology.
Best strikeout to walk ratios in Mets history: