In 1978, New York Mets pitcher Craig Swan did the unexpected and won the National League ERA title.
Craig Swan spent all but two games of his Major League Baseball career with the New York Mets. First debuting in 1973, he remained with them through the 1984 season until his May release. Coming a little too late to the party and leaving before the next one began, Swan never got to pitch in any truly important Mets games.
Swan was never an elite pitcher by any stretch. He only ever reached double-digit wins twice in his career and finished 12 games below .500 as a member of the Mets.
In 1978, though, Swan did something not many pitchers have. In 28 starts and a relief appearance, Swan logged 207.1 innings of work. Going 9-6, he also produced a 2.43 ERA. About as unexpected as anything in his career, Swan came away with an ERA title.
Swan didn’t win many accolades for this achievement. Over in the Bronx, Ron Guidry won an ERA title at 1.74. Over in Texas, Swan’s former teammate, Jon Matlack, finished second in the American League at 2.27. The 2.43 ERA was good, just not so great where it awarded him any hardware or notoriety as one of the best in baseball.
Swan was never one to lead the league in much of anything throughout his career. His 143 ERA+ that same year is the only other statistic on his Baseball-Reference page highlighted in bold.
The 1978 Mets are remembered mostly for their trek through 162 games without Tom Seaver for the first time since “The Franchise” debuted for them. Unceremoniously traded the previous summer, the club struggled through a 66-96 campaign.
Swan’s ERA title season came in a year with some other oddities from the Mets pitching staff. Jerry Koosman went 3-15. This was especially strange considering he still had a respectable 3.75 ERA.
Reliever Skip Lockwood had an equally as unlucky year. Even with his 3.57 ERA, he was the decided loser 13 times.
Swan doubled down on his ERA title in 1978 and managed to win a career-high 14 games in 1979. Although the ERA went up to 3.29, it was still at a number where he was the clear best pitcher on the staff in Flushing.
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Between the greatness of Seaver and the rise of Dwight Gooden, the Mets could usually count on Swan to pitch some of their best games. It all culminated in 1978 when he became one of the least likely Mets pitchers to win an ERA title.