Tom, Doc, & Johan

Watching Johan Santana pitch every five days has been, by far, the highlight of the current Mets season for me. I've been tracking him start-by-start compared to some of the other great seasons in Mets history, and over the past three starts he's really separated himself from the pack. With the caveat that I haven't looked at anything close to every pitcher season in Mets history and am really only comparing him to guys whose seasons ended well, there are only two pitchers in Mets history who have had starts comparable to Johan's thus far in 2009, and they'll probably come as no surprise to anyone: Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Tom Seaver in 1971. Here are the relevant stats through 8 starts:


Seaver 1971 63.1 14 72 1.99 0.967 6.7 0.3 2.0 10.3 5.14
Gooden 1985 61.1 18 57 1.61 0.929 5.7 0.3 2.6 8.4 3.17
Santana 2009 53 13 67 1.36 1.038 7.1 0.5 2.2 11.4 5.15


Seaver and Gooden both pitched more innings, which shouldn't be surprising given the change in how starting pitchers are used over the past 20+ years. Johan has been the best at preventing runs but the worst at preventing base runners, which suggests that perhaps he's due for a bit of regression, at least in comparison to these two. On the other hand, Johan has the best strikeout rate of the three and his K/BB ratio is enough better than Gooden's to compensate a bit for Gooden's WHIP advantage. Overall, nobody would complain about getting 8 starts like any of the above.

For those who don't remember or who don't feel like checking out BB-Ref, Seaver finished the 1971 season with a 20-10 record, a league leading 1.76 ERA, a league leading 289 K's to 61 BB's in 286 IP and a second place finish in Cy Young voting (behind Fergie Jenkins, whom he almost certainly should have beaten). Gooden finished 1985 with a 24-4 record, a league leading 1.53 ERA, and league leading 268 K's to 69 BB in 276.2 IP en route to a well-deserved Cy Young Award. Only time will tell how Johan will finish the 2009 season, but if it's anything like what Gooden and Seaver once gave the Mets, the outlook for this season should be just a bit better than what was expected just over a month ago.

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