When the New York Mets brought Bret Saberhagen to town, they were hoping for the best. His 1994 campaign proved just how effective he could be on the mound when Saberhagen mastered his control.
The 1994 MLB season was cut short due to a work stoppage in the middle of the season. There was no World Series. There was, however, enough New York Mets baseball to look back at.
The 1994 Mets finished 55-58 during an era when things weren’t going swimmingly for the organization. Several players did have productive years, led by former two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen.
Saberhagen’s best years took place with the Kansas City Royals prior to his days with the Mets. However, he continued to pitch well in New York. The 1994 season was his best as it included a 14-4 record and 2.74 ERA over 24 starts.
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The strike-shortened campaign could have included many historical moments. The Montreal Expos had a chance to go to the postseason. Tony Gwynn had a batting average approaching .400. For Saberhagen, a third-place finish in the Cy Young vote was all he could muster. Given a full season, who knows what could have happened?
A big reason for Saberhagen’s success in 1994 was how well he mastered his control. Saberhagen routinely had one of the league’s best walk ratios. During the 1994 season, he bested himself.
Over the 177.1 innings he pitched, Saberhagen issued just 13 walks. This came out to a league-leading average of 0.7 per nine innings (rounded up). It was the lowest total of his career. In the history of baseball, it’s the 0.6598 (official number) that ranks 32nd all-time.
Only three pitchers since 1900 have a better walk per nine inning ratio than Saberhagen in 1994. Carlos Silva’s 2005 total of 9 walks over 188.1 innings stands out as the modern marvel.
Walks per nine is not a sexy statistic. It’s something an average fan doesn’t even pay attention to.
To give you a greater idea of what Saberhagen did, let’s look at a recent example of a Mets pitcher mastering control.
Bartolo Colon was known for throwing strikes in his New York Days. In 2015, he led the league with an average of 1.1 walks per nine. The following year, he led the league again at 1.5 per nine. Those numbers, while fantastic, don’t compare to Saberhagen’s 1994 campaign.
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Throwing strikes is a necessary component to a winning recipe. Though the Mets didn’t experience as many victories as they would like during the time Saberhagen wore their uniform, he gave them a great chance each time out in 1994.