In honor of the great Tom Seaver, I take a look at how the greatest New York Mets player of all-time compares to other pitchers in MLB history.
This past week, it was publicly announced that New York Mets legend Tom Seaver was diagnosed with severe dementia. The 74-year-old will step back from public life, 50 years after helping the Mets win their first championship in 1969.
The news of Seaver’s diagnosis is hard to handle for any Mets fan. He is far and away the greatest player to suit up for the Amazins. In the history of baseball itself, he’s one of the greatest pitchers, too.
With baseball, we often have to examine statistics with the idea that different eras produce a variety of statistics. During the early 1900s, entire teams would hit as many home runs as a single player would only a few years later. Seaver’s magnificence doesn’t require any grading curve. You can grab any statistic and see how amazing he was.
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When looking at JAWS, a meter to measure Hall of Fame players, Seaver is ranked 8th among pitchers. He slots in between Lefty Grove and Greg Maddux. Maddux is one of a small number of pitchers who have stepped on a mound since Seaver’s retirement that you can argue had a better career. However, at least in JAWS, Seaver is better.
WAR is the statistic we hear about more than ever these days. Going into my brief little search about Seaver’s numbers, I figured guys like Cy Young and Walter Johnson would have outdueled Tom Terrific by a wide margin. While they did, not many others have.
Seaver’s 110.1 WAR according to Baseball Reference is 6th all-time. To give you a little perspective, the average Hall of Fame pitcher has a career WAR of 73.4.
Some statistics are more difficult to measure because of the pitching evolution which seems to change every decade. His 311 wins still has him in 18th place all-time. Maybe the best way to appreciate this number is how we may never see anyone ever reach 300 wins again. Only a small class of pitchers won 300 games before Seaver’s career and even fewer have done so since.
When it came to strikeouts, Seaver knew better than most how to fan a batter. His 3,640 strikeouts are 6th on the all-time MLB list. He led the league in this category five times in his career. To do this while Steve Carlton was pitching in the same league is quite an accomplishment.
In some ways, I feel like Seaver isn’t a guy most non-Mets fans think of when making a list of the top 10 pitchers of all-time. Even though he won three Cy Young Awards, went to 12 All-Star Games, and has the numbers, his name is far too often overlooked. The old-timers and more modern stars often overshadow him.
Mets fans know better than to do that.
Thankfully, when it came to the Hall of Fame vote, Seaver received as much love as anyone else. His 1992 election included 98.8% of the vote. At the time, it was the highest any Hall of Fame player had ever received. He was a stone-cold-mortal-lock for Cooperstown. Even the sometimes sensitive, petty, and agenda-driven voters knew so.
I could go on forever about Seaver’s greatness. I won’t rank him on any all-time list, but I will say, he’s an easy selection for a top 10 pitcher.
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Seaver gave Mets and baseball fans plenty of memorable moments. I can only hope he felt the love and appreciation from the fans and organization.