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Mets Starter SNLVAR By Decade

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Back in November, I ran this column on Mets batter VORP by decade. It generated some good debate and interesting dialogue, and prompted a similar list for pitchers. VORP for pitchers is a little wonky, so I'm going to use a different Baseball Prospectus metric called SNLVAR (summarized nicely by Marc Normandin here). In short, SNLVAR is especially useful because it neutralizes run support and adjusts for strength of opposing lineups, distilling a pitcher's seasonal performance down to "what he did" without having to worry about "who he did it against" and "what did his team give him to work with". SNLVAR doesn't make any adjustment for team defense that I'm aware of, and it is only calculated for starting pitchers, so John Franco et al will have to wait for another such reliever list.

While the Mets' offensive dominance (or semi-dominance) has only emerged in the past decade or so, their pitching pedigree goes all the way back to the sixties.

NAME 1960's SNLVAR YEARS
Tom Seaver 23.1 3
Jerry Koosman 15.9 3
Jack Fisher 11.8 4
Don Cardwell 6.9 3
Al Jackson 6.4 6
Gary Gentry 6.0 1
Jim McAndrew 5.6 2
Roger Craig 5.1 2
Carl Willey 4.6 3
Galen Cisco 4.5 4

No one should be shocked that despite pitching just three seasons, Tom Seaver had the highest aggregate SNLVAR in the sixties by a comfortable margin. He notched individual marks of 6.5, 7.0 and 9.6, with the last coming in the Mets' miracle season of 1969. That same year, Jerry Koosman had a 9.0 and rookie Gary Gentry contributed an additional 6.0. Not surprisingly, the Mets led the National League in SNLVAR with 33.3.

Al Jackson led the Mets' staff in 1962 with 2.8 SNLVAR. Carl Willey did likewise in 1963 (3.9). Tracy Stallard, with whom I share a birthday in common, led in 1964 with 2.9, just slipping past Jack Fisher who led in 1965 (3.6) and 1966 (3.9). Seaver led in 1967 and 1969; Koosman narrowly edged him out with a 7.1 in 1968.

NAME 1970's SNLVAR YEARS
Tom Seaver 63.9 8
Jerry Koosman 39.7 9
Jon Matlack 34.8 7
Craig Swan 16.6 7
Gary Gentry 11.7 3
Jim McAndrew 9.9 4
Ray Sadecki 8.5 6
Nino Espinosa 7.3 5
Pat Zachry 5.6 3
Nolan Ryan 5.4 2

Seaver was the Mets' leader in SNLVAR in every season from 1970 thru 1975 excepting 1974, when John Matlack was the club's best pitcher (8.1). Koosman had a fine decade, but the seventies really belonged to Seaver, whose 63.9 SNLVAR with the Mets was more than the #3 thru #5 starters combined. Seaver was traded to the Reds midway through the 1977 season, and his combined SNLVAR from 1970-1979 was more than anyone else in baseball by quite a bit, besting Jim Palmer 81.6 to 71.6. What's more, his seven-plus years with the Mets were better than full decades from all but two big league pitchers: Palmer and Gaylord Perry.

NAME 1980's SNLVAR YEARS
Dwight Gooden 38.0 6
Ron Darling 27.8 7
Sid Fernandez 24.4 6
Bob Ojeda 14.2 4
David Cone 12.3 3
Ed Lynch 8.6 7
Walt Terrell 6.3 3
Rick Aguilera 5.6 5
Pat Zachry 4.7 3
Craig Swan 4.2 5

In the eighties, glam rock bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison and Skid Row dominated the music scene while Dwight Gooden did likewise to opposing hitters. Gooden's 12.6 SNLVAR in 1985 is the second highest single-season mark in baseball history (Sandy Koufax had 13.5 in 1966), and his 38.0 SNLVAR from 1984-1989 was second in baseball to Orel Hershiser's 39.2. He was twelfth in baseball in SNLVAR for the entire decade despite only beginning his career in 1984. All-time Met greats Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez round out the top three.

The latter half of the top ten is comprised of Walt Terrell and his two-plus seasons with the Mets in the early eighties and four guys -- Ed Lynch, Rick Aguilera, Pat Zachry and Craig Swan -- who were only part-time starters.

NAME 1990's SNLVAR YEARS
Bobby J. Jones 22.3 7
Rick Reed 16.3 3
Dwight Gooden 16.1 5
Sid Fernandez 15.6 4
Bret Saberhagen 15.2 4
David Cone 15.2 3
Al Leiter 12.3 2
Frank Viola 11.8 2
Masato Yoshii 9.6 2
Mark Clark 7.6 2

The nineties Mets teams were mostly forgettable, but there are still some pretty good pitchers on this list. Bobby J. Jones was probably the last decent starting pitcher the Mets developed, assuming we don't count guys who wound up pitching elsewhere (e.g. Scott Kazmir) and those who haven't completely established themselves (e.g. Mike Pelfrey), which is really kind of pathetic when you think about it. Apart from Jones we get three carry-overs from the eighties list (Gooden, Fernandez and David Cone), we get the first three seasons of Rick Reed's solid career with the Mets, Bret Saberhagen's nice little sting (including his epic 143:13 K:BB ratio in 1994), and the first two seasons of Al Leiter's terrific run in Queens.

NAME 2000's SNLVAR YEARS
Al Leiter 27.1 5
Tom Glavine 25.1 5
Steve Trachsel 21.9 6
Pedro Martinez 12.7 4
John Maine 10.8 3
Jae Seo 9.3 4
Rick Reed 9.2 2
Oliver Perez 8.8 3
Johan Santana 8.6 1
Glendon Rusch 8.6 2

Those Mets fans who have leapt aboard in the past dozen years will recognize plenty of names here. Leiter cements his legacy as one of the Mets' five best starters with his stretch in the early aughts. Met Pariahs Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel, starting and finishing their respective solid careers in the 2000's despite each leaving on a sour note. Johan Santana is #9 overall with just one season under his belt. Will Pedro Martinez or Oliver Perez return to climb this list?

NAME SNLVAR YEARS
Tom Seaver 90.6 12
Jerry Koosman 55.6 12
Dwight Gooden 54.1 11
Sid Fernandez 40.0 10
Al Leiter 39.4 7
Jon Matlack 34.8 7
Ron Darling 30.2 9
David Cone 27.7 7
Bobby J. Jones 25.6 8
Rick Reed 25.5 5
Tom Glavine 25.1 5
Steve Trachsel 21.9 6
Craig Swan 20.8 12
Gary Gentry 17.7 4
Jim McAndrew 15.5 6
Bret Saberhagen 15.2 4
Bob Ojeda 14.7 5
Frank Viola 13.5 3
Pedro Martinez 12.7 4
Jack Fisher 11.8 4

Few surprises in the franchise top five, except maybe that Koosman eked ahead of Gooden. Seaver leads by a country mile here, and has the third most SNLVAR of any pitcher since 1967 (Roger Clemens, 152.6; Greg Maddux, 139.3). It's nice to see the big four from 1986 all represented here. Santana will be in the top twenty after 2009.