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, #3, Jerry Koosman:
If you’ve been following this list, you know that there are just three players left. If you’ve been following closely, you probably know that all three are pitchers. And you probably know that, of those three pitchers, one is much better than the other two, the obvious best player in Mets history and top of the pyramid. However, numbers #2 and #3 — Doc Gooden and Jerry Koosman — finish incredibly close to each other on the statistical side (though neither is anywhere near #1). It’s virtually neck and neck:
- Gooden: 2169.2 innings pitched, 3.10 ERA, 116 ERA+, 1875 strikeouts
- Koosman: 2544.1 innings pitched, 3.09 ERA, 113 ERA+, 1799 strikeouts
Gooden, at his brief peak, was the better pitcher, but Koosman held up over the long haul and threw about 400 more innings at a similar effectiveness. Gooden, despite his tough luck 0-3 record, has a 3.25 postseason ERA as a Met; Koosman’s record is 4-0, but he has a similar 3.38 postseason ERA. It’s more or less a statistical toss up between the two, peak against longevity once again.
Or, I should say, the pitching statistics are more or less a toss up. We’re going to bring out the tie-breaker for this one: hitting. If you compare each pitcher’s merits with the bat, it’s not close. Dwight Gooden is among the Mets’ best hitting pitchers, but Jerry Koosman is the franchise’s worst hitter to receive a full season’s worth of trips to the plate.
Those are the 6 pitchers to come to the plate at least 500 times as a Met, sorted by ascending OPS+. Gooden, who popped 7 home runs and drove in 65 runs with the Mets, is the best hitter in the group. Koosman, who struck out in 42% of his plate appearances, was the worst. Gooden managed 27 extra base hits and a .260 slugging percentage, against Koosman’s 15 extra base hits and .146 slugging percentage. Gooden posted a .213 on base percentage, Koosman a .151 on base percentage. It’s obvious that Gooden was much better at the plate.
What may not be obvious, however, is that this is a significant difference between the two. Without batting, Koosman has 41.8 wins above replacement, Gooden 41.2 wins. Including batting, Koosman drops to 37.5 wins, as Gooden jumps to 43.7 wins. That seems a bit excessive to me — I think it’s closer to a 2 win swing than a 7 win swing — but either way, the tiebreaker goes to Gooden, sticking Koosman here in the three spot.
Koosman was happy to let Seaver receive most of the attention. “I was a farm kid pitching in the biggest media market in baseball,” says Koosman. “Imagine how a lifelong New Yorker would fare on a farm, and that’s how shocking it was to me. So, no, I never minded missing the spotlight. I just wanted to win.”
– Sports Illustrated, March 1999