1. Tom Seaver – 1971
Finally, we have one of Tom Terrific’s greatest seasons, and the biggest Cy Young snub in Mets history to date. In 1971, Seaver had one of the most brilliant campaigns in his Hall of Fame career, but finished second to a fellow future Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins, in the NL Cy Young voting. When unpacking both of their seasons from today’s baseball perspective, it’s hard to understand why.
In 1971, Seaver led all of baseball with a 1.76 ERA, which was over a run better than Jenkins’ 2.77 mark. He led the NL in strikeouts with 289, exceeding Jenkins’ 263. He led the Majors with a razor-thin 0.946 WHIP; Jenkins trailed him with a 1.049 mark. Seaver also led the NL in a few other stats that we use today but did not exist in 1971: WAR for pitchers (10.2), FIP (1.93), and ERA+ (194).
Where Jenkins bested him was in the “workhorse” categories -- the Cubs hurler tossed 30 (!) complete games out of 39 (!!) starts, pitched 325 innings, and won 24 games, all of which led the NL. Still, if you go by ERA, WHIP, and WAR, Seaver was statistically the better pitcher that season, and he won 20 games to boot.
I am fairly confident that today’s awards voters would have given Seaver the nod for that year’s Cy Young, even though Jenkins had an extremely impressive season. It’s hard for me to ignore that a pitcher finished second with an ERA over a run better than the eventual winner, but again, the awards voting landscape in 1971 was far different than it is today.