Bret Saberhagen is often brought up more in the same breath as Bobby Bonilla than he is with Tom Seaver. It’s understandable. His time with the New York Mets didn’t go as planned. He made less than 20 starts in each of his first two seasons with the team. He was a member of the infamous 1992 and 1993 squads who managed to set a new standard of stink in Flushing. Deferred payments have taken over his legacy from anything he did on the field.
However, in 1994, Saberhagen was much closer to the star he was with the Kansas City Royals. The two-time Cy Young winner had one of the more underrated Mets seasons in club history.
Bret Saberhagen had one of the most underrated seasons for an NY Mets pitcher in franchise history
Anything unique that happened in 1994 is somewhat erased from MLB history because of the Player’s Strike that ended the year early. Matt Williams wasn’t able to challenge for the home run record. Tony Gwynn fell short of batting .400. The Montreal Expos never had their opportunity to win a World Series.
Saberhagen was probably never going to win a Cy Young this year. Greg Maddux and his 1.56 ERA ran away with it.
This doesn’t take away from Saberhagen’s performance. A third-place finish in the Cy Young vote behind only Maddux and Ken Hill should be remembered much more.
Saberhagen made 24 starts for the Mets this season and put together a 14-4 record and 2.74 ERA. He had the league’s best strikeout/walk ratio at an even 11. It was his ability to throw strikes and avoid ball three that stood out the most. Only 13 batters walked all year against him in his 177.1 innings of work.
The strikeout/walk ratio is the second-best in MLB history. Only Phil Hughes in 2014 at 11.62 strikeouts per every walk bested Saberhagen’s 1994 performance. We’ll be left wondering if maybe Saberhagen could have improved there further if the season went a full 162 games.
Because the Mets have had so many other great years from starting pitchers, Saberhagen’s one masterful year with the team often gets overlooked. It doesn’t help that the team was so bad—the one theme throughout his stay.