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Hall of Fame honorable mentions: Pitchers

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These six Mets pitchers had excellent careers, but where do they rank among the all-time greats?

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In the 15th and final installment of our Hall of Fame series, we profile six pitchers whose careers probably don’t measure up to those of the others we profiled, but who nonetheless deserve honorable mentions. We hope you enjoyed the series! Thanks for reading, and click below to revisit any of the first 14 installments.

Mike Piazza

Keith Hernandez

John Olerud

Carlos Delgado

Jeff Kent

Robin Ventura

Carlos Beltran

David Cone

John Franco

Billy Wagner

Gil Hodges

Davey Johnson

Frank Cashen

Honorable mentions: Position players

Jerry Koosman

Koosman, a member of the Mets Hall of Fame, pitched alongside Tom Seaver in the vaunted Mets rotations of the late sixties and early seventies. In his 11 full seasons in New York, Koosman averaged a 13-12 record, with a 3.07 ERA (88 ERA-), a 3.12 FIP (90 FIP-), 136 strikeouts, 6.38 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 0.66 HR/9, and 3.8 fWAR per year. The lefty was a crucial part of the Mets’ 1969 championship run and their pennant run in 1973, and retired at the top of the franchise’s leaderboards in nearly every starting pitching category: Among Mets starters, Koosman ranks second in games started (346) and innings pitched (2,531.2), third in wins (140), strikeouts (1,789), and WAR (40.9), 13th in adjusted ERA (89 ERA-), and 14th in adjusted FIP (91 FIP-).

The case for: In his 19-year career, Koosman amassed at 222-209 record, with a 3.36 ERA (91 ERA-), a 3.26 FIP (90 FIP-), 2,556 strikeouts, 5.99 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 0.68, HR/9, and 62.6 fWAR. Only 28 pitchers in baseball history have more career strikeouts and, of those, 22 are in the Hall of Fame. During his career, Koosman was selected to two All-Star Teams, registered two top-six finishes in Cy Young voting, received MVP Votes three separate times, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1968, and led his league in K/9 and FIP once each. Among left-handed pitchers, Koosman ranks ninth all time in strikeouts, 12th in WAR, and 16th in wins. JAWS ranks Koosman as the 101st-best starting pitcher in baseball history, and ahead of 12 Hall of Famers, including Dizzy Dean, Bob Lemon, Catfish Hunter, and Lefty Gomez. Koosman also ranks higher than a number of great starters not in the Hall of Fame, such as Roy Oswalt, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, and Ron Guidry.

The case against: While Koosman had an exceptional career, JAWS ranks him behind 50 of the 62 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame, including Whitey Ford, Don Sutton, Jim Bunning, and Don Drysdale, who all rank below the average Hall of Fame starter. Koosman’s 45.2 JAWS is also lower than the average Hall of Fame starter’s score of 62.1. Finally, the lefty’s nearly .500 career record surely hurt him in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters, as did the fact that he reached neither 300 wins nor 3,000 strikeouts.

Prospects for induction: Koosman’s first and only year on the Hall of Fame ballot was 1991, when he received just 0.9% of the vote. His next opportunity for consideration will be in 2017, and every three years after that, by the Expansion Era Committee.

Dwight Gooden

After the Mets picked him in the first round of the 1982 amateur draft, Gooden became the team’s ace during its most successful run in franchise history. In the decade from 1984 to 1993, Gooden averaged a 15-8 record, with a 3.04 ERA (85 ERA-), a 2.73 FIP (74 FIP-), 184 strikeouts, 7.76 K/9, 2.69 BB/9, 0.48 HR/9, and 5.2 fWAR per year. Gooden’s signature year with the team came in 1985, when he finished with a 24-4 record, along with a miniscule 1.53 ERA (44 ERA-) and 2.13 FIP (58 FIP-). Dr. K helped pitch the Mets to the 1986 world championship and the 1988 division title, and finished among the greatest Mets starters of all time in nearly every pitching category: Among Mets starters, Gooden ranks second in wins (157), strikeouts (1,869), and WAR (52.1), third in games started (303), innings pitched (2,169.2) and adjusted FIP (75 FIP-), and eighth in adjusted ERA (86 ERA-) and K/9 (7.78). The Mets rewarded Gooden for his contributions to the franchise by inducting him into the team Hall of Fame in 2010.

The case for: Gooden finished his 16-year career with a 194-112 record and a 3.51 ERA (90 ERA-), a 3.33 FIP (83 FIP-), 2,293 strikeouts, 7.37 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, and 56.7 fWAR. For a period of time, the righty was among best pitchers in baseball, garnering four All-Star Game selections, five top-seven finishes in Cy Young voting, the 1985 Cy Young Award, and the 1984 Rookie of the Year Award. Gooden also won three world championships with the Mets and Yankees, threw a no-hitter with the Yankees in 1996, and led his league in FIP three times, strikeouts twice, and wins, ERA, complete games, and K/9 one time each. According to JAWS, Gooden ranks ahead of 13 Hall of Fame starters, including Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean, Bob Lemon, and Catfish Hunter, as well as non-Hall-of-Famers like Jerry Koosman, Roy Oswalt, Jim Kaat, and Mickey Lolich.

The case against: Due to a series of substance abuse issues and suspensions, Gooden’s career got cut far too short. After leaving the Mets in 1994, the righty never again threw more than 170.2 innings. As a result, he failed to reach either 200 wins or 2,500 strikeouts. In addition, Gooden’s 46.1 JAWS is lower than the average Hall of Fame starter’s score of 62.1, and below those of 49 of the 62 starters in the Hall, including Don Sutton, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, and Juan Marichal.

Prospects for induction: Gooden debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2006 and got the support of just 3.3% of voters. By failing to achieve the requisite 5.0% of support, Gooden fell off the ballot. However, the righty will be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee for the first time in 2017, and every three years after that.

Bret Saberhagen

The Mets acquired Saberhagen and Bill Pecota in a blockbuster trade that sent Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller to the Royals prior to the 1992 season. Although Saberhagen had trouble staying on the field for the Mets, he was quite good when healthy, going 29-21 with a 3.16 ERA (81 ERA-), a 3.14 FIP (78 FIP-), 6.66 K/9, 1.32 BB/9, 0.74 HR/9, and 12.2 fWAR in his three-plus years in New York. In 1994, the righty finished third in Cy Young voting and posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in history (11.0 K/BB), a record that stood for 10 years until Phil Hughes broke it in 2014.

The case for: Saberhagen is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball history. In 16 major league seasons, the control artist went 167-117, pitched to a 3.34 ERA (80 ERA-) and a 3.27 FIP (81 FIP-), and recorded 1,715 strikeouts, 6.02 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, and 55.3 fWAR. During his seven-year prime from 1985 to 1991, Saberhagen averaged a 14-10 record, with a 3.19 ERA (77 ERA-), a 3.05 FIP (77 FIP-), 6.11 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, and 5.0 fWAR per year for the Royals. When healthy, the righty was nothing short of dominant: Saberhagen was a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a three-time All-Star and MVP vote getter, and led his league in numerous pitching categories. Among those pitching titles were in wins, winning percentage, ERA, complete games, FIP (twice), BB/9 (twice), and K/BB (three times). Saberhagen’s other accomplishments include winning the 1985 World Series MVP Award for the world champion Royals and throwing a no-hitter in 1991. JAWS ranks Saberhagen as the 65th-best starting pitcher in baseball history, ahead 17 Hall of Famers—including Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean, and Catfish Hunter—and many great non-Hall-of-Famers, like Dave Stieb, Tim Hudson, Tommy John, and Andy Pettitte. In fact, Saberhagen’s JAWS is higher than that of every other Mets pitcher not in the Hall of Fame, with the exception of David Cone.

The case against: A series of arm injuries caused Saberhagen to miss a great deal of playing time in the second half of his career. Although he played in 10 seasons after 1989, he failed to throw 200.0 innings in a single one of them. As a result, he fell short of both the 200-win and 2,000-strikeout plateaus. Saberhagen's lack of durability also took a toll on his JAWS, which, at 51.3, is much lower than the average Hall of Fame starter’s score of 62.1. By JAWS, Saberhagen ranks behind 45 of the 62 starters in the Hall, including Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, and Jim Palmer.

Prospects for induction: Saberhagen appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first and only time in 2007, when he received just 1.3% of the vote. His next opportunity for consideration will be by the Expansion Era Committee in 2020, and every third year after that.

Johan Santana

The Mets traded for Santana prior to the 2008 season and signed him to what was then the biggest contract ever for a starting pitcher. Although injuries limited him to parts of four seasons in New York, Santana was excellent when he took the mound from 2008 to 2010. In those three years, the lefty averaged a 13-8 record, with a 2.85 ERA (70 ERA-), a 3.59 FIP (87 FIP-), 165 strikeouts, 7.44 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, and 4.0 fWAR per year. Santana wrote himself into the Mets’ history books on June 1, 2012, when he threw the franchise’s first no-hitter in its 40 years of existence.

The case for: Santana was an absolutely dominant pitcher from 2002 to 2010. During those nine seasons, the lefty averaged a 14-7 record, with a 2.90 ERA (67 ERA-), a 3.27 FIP (77 FIP-), 198 strikeouts, 9.03 K/9, 2.32 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, and 4.9 fWAR per season for the Twins and Mets. In that time, Santana made four All-Start Teams, won two Cy Young Awards, garnered six top-seven finishes in Cy Young voting, and received MVP votes three separate times. He also led his league in ERA, FIP, strikeouts, and K/9 three times, and wins once. Santana accumulated a 139-78 record over twelve seasons, and pitched to a 3.20 ERA (74 ERA-) and a 3.44 FIP (81 FIP-), with 1,988 strikeouts, 8.83 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, and 45.4 fWAR. JAWS ranks him as the 81st-best starter in major league history, ahead of 14 Hall of Famers—including Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Dizzy Dean, and Catfish Hunter—and non-Hall-of-Famers like Andy Pettitte, Dwight Gooden, Roy Oswalt, and Jim Kaat.

The case against: Unfortunately, a series of injuries limited what was once on track to be a clear-cut Hall of Fame career. Santana only threw 100.0 innings in a season 10 times, and failed to reach either 150 career wins or 2,000 career strikeouts. As a result, his 48.1 JAWS is lower than the average Hall of Fame starter’s score of 62.1. Furthermore, JAWS ranks Santana lower than 48 of the 62 starters in the Hall, including Don Sutton, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, and Juan Marichal.

Prospects for induction: Santana last pitched in 2012, but has since attempted comebacks with the Orioles and the Blue Jays. While neither of those comebacks panned out, the lefty recently expressed interest in giving it another go in 2016. If Santana does not play in the majors again, his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility will be 2018. Were he to pitch in 2016, his eligibility clock would reset to six years after his retirement.

Tug McGraw

McGraw, another member of the Mets Hall of Fame, helped pitch the Mets to both the 1969 world championship and the 1973 National League pennant. After getting his feet wet in the big leagues, the lefty came into his own in 1969, pitching to a 2.79 ERA (78 ERA-) and a 3.16 FIP (91 FIP-), with 7.44 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, and 0.61 HR/9 in a remarkable 102.2 innings per year, on average, out of the bullpen from 1969 to 1974. In addition to being an excellent pitcher, McGraw made his mark on the franchise by coining the phrase "Ya gotta believe!" and finished among the top Mets relievers in several pitching categories: Among all Mets relievers, McGraw ranks second in innings pitched (685.2), fourth in appearances (338), fifth in saves (86) and WAR (5.2), and 16th in adjusted ERA (79 ERA-).

The case for: McGraw was one of the game’s signature relief aces in the pre-modern-day-closer era. In his 19-year career, the lefty pitched to a 3.14 ERA (86 ERA-) and a 3.26 FIP (91 FIP-), with 180 saves, 6.59 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, and 0.64 HR/9 in 1,514.2 innings of work. During the peak of his career, McGraw had at least a 20%-better-than-league-average ERA eight times, was a two-time All-Star, finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 1980, and received MVP votes four separate times. JAWS ranks him as the 33rd-best reliever of all time, ahead of relief greats like Keith Foulke, Tom Henke, John Franco, and John Wetteland. Finally, McGraw became an iconic figure in both the Mets and Phillies franchises, winning a World Series with each and reaching the playoffs a combined seven times. McGraw was particularly good in the postseason, posting an impressive 2.24 ERA in 52.1 innings of work.

The case against: McGraw’s case, admittedly, would only be compelling to voters who value things like "fame," icon status, longevity, and postseason success. By regular season numbers alone, he probably falls short. McGraw ranks below all five relievers in the Hall of Fame—Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers—in JAWS, and his 21.2 score ranks well below the average Hall of Fame reliever's score of 34.4. McGraw also never led his league in any pitching category, and doesn’t rank among the top-10 relievers in any major stat (e.g., saves, strikeouts, K/9, and WAR).

Prospects for induction: McGraw debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1990, when he received just 1.4% of the vote. Although that wasn’t enough to keep in on the ballot for another year, he will be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee in 2017, and every three years after that.

Jesse Orosco

The Mets acquired Orosco as a player to be named later when they traded Jerry Koosman to the Twins in 1978. Orosco became one the of the most effective relievers in Mets history, pitching to a 2.63 ERA (73 ERA-) and a 3.08 FIP (85 FIP-), with 7.72 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, and 0.56 HR/9 in an average of 90.2 innings pitched per year from 1982 to 1987, his six full seasons in New York. He also finished among the Mets’ leaders in many relief pitching categories, including third in saves (107), strikeouts (496), appearances (368), and innings pitched (577.1), and fourth in adjusted ERA (72 ERA-). In 1986, the lefty famously struck out Marty Barrett to end the World Series and deliver the Mets their second and most recent championship.

The case for: Orosco was one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball history, and certainly the most durable. In his 24-year career, Orosco posted an exceptional 3.16 ERA (80 ERA-) and a 3.61 FIP (91 FIP-), with 144 saves, 8.19 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, and 0.79 HR/9. The lefty was a two-time All-Star who finished third in Cy Young voting and even received some MVP votes in 1983. What made Orosco’s career so remarkable was how good he was for such a long period of time. Off the 22 seasons in which he threw at least 25.0 innings, Orosco posted at least a 20%-better-than-league-average ERA in 12 of them; the first came in 1982, the last in 2002. Orosco holds the all-time record for pitcher appearances (1,248), has the second-most strikeouts among lefty relievers, and is one of only 29 players in baseball history to play in four different decades. According to JAWS, Orosco is the 36th-best reliever of all time and, like McGraw, ranks ahead of notable closers like Keith Foulke, Tom Henke, John Franco, and John Wetteland.

The case against: Orosco’s Hall of Fame case, like McGraw’s, relies more on his overall contributions to the game, rather than his inning-per-inning dominance. Orosco never led his league in any major pitching categories and, aside from strikeouts and appearances, is not in the top 10 of any historical pitching categories either. As a result, JAWS ranks Orosco lower than all five relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame and, at 20.9, well below the average mark of 34.4

Prospects for induction: Orosco’s first and only year on the Hall of Fame ballot was 2009, when he got just 0.2% of the baseball writers’ support. Orosco will be eligible to appear on the Expansion Era Committee’s ballot for the first time in 2020, and he will be eligible for the Committee’s consideration every third year after that.