As far as first impressions go, Jerry Koosman made a fantastic one on Major League Baseball with his stellar rookie performance in 1968.
At 25, Koosman stepped into a rotation already anchored by Tom Seaver. Little did Mets fans know, he was on the verge of joining Seaver as one of the greatest starting pitchers in franchise history. It all began with a marvelous rookie campaign in 1968.
Where do we start with the glory that was this rookie campaign?
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A 19-12 record and 2.08 ERA for Koosman was somehow not strong enough to win him a Rookie of the Year.
Let’s remember what made 1968 such an important year in Major League Baseball history. This was the season known as “The Year of the Pitcher.” Because of this, Koosman fell just shy of beating Cincinnati Reds rookie Johnny Bench for Rookie of the Year honors despite much more impressive totals.
Looking back at the Rookie of the Year voting in 1968, I have to laugh. Bench, with a .275/.311/.433 batting line and 15 home runs somehow beat out Koosman. The pair were the only ones to even receive a vote.
Over in the American League, it was a bit more laughable. Pitcher Stan Bahnsen won the award with similar numbers to Koosman. The runner-up, Del Unser, received three votes with a .230/.282/.277 batting line and a -1.5 WAR.
I can hear the modern-day analytic geeks screaming at the notion.
Koosman’s 1968 numbers are hard to measure up against what we would see from a pitcher in this era. With 17 complete games, 7 shutouts, and 263.2 frames, he put up some ridiculous statistics.
His 6.3 WAR in 1968 helped Koosman put together his greatest individual season as a member of the Mets based on this statistic alone. One could certainly make the cause for this base on other numbers as well. Although Koosman’s sophomore season and 21-win campaign in 1976 sure were impressive, too.
Koosman has been overshadowed plenty in the record books by Seaver and others who put up phenomenal numbers in blue and orange. Specific to rookies, he has to compete with Dwight Gooden who had possibly the greatest rookie season for a pitcher of all-time.
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The number retirement for Koosman is certainly overdue. He’s one of the first great Mets to ever wear any number for this franchise.