3. Tom Seaver – 1977
By awards season in 1977, many Mets fans were probably still scarred from trading Seaver to the Reds in June. Even if they weren’t paying attention to him the rest of the year, the right-hander continued his strong first half with the Mets into an even stronger second half with the Reds. He was rewarded for his full-season efforts with a third-place finish in that year’s NL Cy Young voting, tied with the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Reuschel and trailing the winner, Philadelphia Phillies ace Steve Carlton. The voting breakdown, as usual, does not tell the full story of Seaver’s excellence that season.
In 1977, Seaver’s ERA (2.58) was a smidge better than Carlton’s (2.64). Seaver also led the NL in shutouts (seven), WHIP (1.014), opponents’ batting average (.206), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.97) and accumulated two more WAR (7.9) than Carlton (5.9). If you’re interested in seeing how Seaver compared to Carlton in a more advanced stat, his FIP of 2.94 was second in the NL and bested Carlton’s (3.47) by a wide margin.
So with all that said, why, you ask, did Carlton ultimately take home the award? Once again, wins meant everything in those days, and Carlton’s 23 victories led the NL and exceeded Seaver’s 21, which likely sent him over the edge. The league leader in both innings (330 1/3) and strikeouts (262) was knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who didn’t receive a single vote for that year’s Cy Young.
Given this head-to-head analysis, it’s more than fair to say that Seaver had a strong argument to be named the Cy Young in 1977 over his left-handed counterpart in Philadelphia.