This week’s Met sweep of the Colorado Rockies is instructive. In taking the broom to the Rockies at Citi Field, the Mets showcased the blueprint they hope can make them a contender as early as next season – solid pitching.
In designing that building plan the Mets need look no further than their first World Championship team the 1969 Mets. That Met team, a group that shocked the world, was built around solid starting pitching. The ’69 Mets won 100 games. When they held teams to three runs or less the ’69 Mets had an 80 percent winning record. Take a look.
Met pitchers in 1969 allowed opposing teams 3-runs or less in 63% of the 162 games played. When Met pitchers in the championship year allowed 2 or fewer runs the Metss were almost unbeatable (65-8). The ’69 Champions won 80% of their regular season games when they allowed 3 or fewer runs.
Very different philosophies governed the ways teams used pitchers in 1969. Pitch counts were not emphasized and starting pitchers often pitched deep into games. 52 times Met starting pitchers completed games in the miracle season of ’69. That represented almost one of every three games the ’69 Mets played. Take a glimpse of the starting pitcher’s numbers in 1969.
Met pitching in the Colorado series was the lynchpin in a rare series sweep, allowing only three runs in three games. With a solid core in the current starting rotation and a long list of promising youngsters carving a path from the minor leagues to Citi Field, the Mets are shaping their rebuilding program around pitching. Even during a Met transition year like the 2013 season the performance of our starting pitchers is instructive. Take a look.
Even though current Met starters have completed only 2 games, when Met pitchers have held opposing teams to three or fewer runs this year, we have a commanding won/loss record (74%), fairly close to the heralded percentage of the ’69 Mets (80%). The big difference is the percentage of games current Met pitchers have been able to limit the opposition to these number (47%). The ’69 Mets held opposing teams to three or fewer runs in 102 of 162 games or 63% of all games played.
Admittedly, Gil Hodges used his bullpen in a very different way than Terry Collins or any current managers in the major leagues. The ’69 Mets bullpen compiled 34 saves spread out over 5 relievers. Ron Taylor led the group with 13 saves. Tug McGraw followed with 12, but McGraw started a dozen games for the Mets in their championship year. Cal Koonce racked up 7 saves and Nolan Ryan and Jack DiLauro both had a single save. Five of the ’69 relievers shouldered heavy inning loads pitching 76 innings or more with McGraw, a cross-over starter, leading the pack with 100.1 innings.
As the Colorado series proved, the name of the rebuilding game for the Mets is solid pitching. If the Mets could push the percentage of games they allow 3 or fewer runs to the 55% level, would they become contenders for a playoff spot next season. I think so. The higher that number goes, the more likely the Mets could play serious baseball in October.
Is it doable? Time will tell. But, with so many young arms in the Met system, more and more Met fans are beginning to appreciate the possibilities. For the first time in a long time, we’re beginning to detect a buzz around Citi Field as Met fans look forward to finding out.