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Best Games I Know (Tom Seaver V 1.0)

Wanted to do a series this week on notable players and their best games as a Met. Kind of similar to the "Best Games I Know" only centered around the individual, rather than the team. And yes, similar to the "teams" series, it's going to require, at least for pitchers, that the individual chosen got the win (thus making for some notable omissions).

Tom Seaver has earned his way to doing this list in a couple of different way. I'm going to take the easy way out and use the mathematical method, rather than the emotional one.

There is a statistic devised by Bill James called "Game Score" which rates a pitchers start based on a number of criteria, such as innings pitched, runs allowed, hits allowed, strikeouts, and walks. An average start would rate around a 50, an awful score would be below 10 and a supremely great score would either approach or surpass 100. Game score is not perfect. It does not factor in quality of opponent or impact of game on pennant race. But, it will suffice for our purposes.

Baseball-Reference PI is good enough such that I was able to sort every one of Seaver's 395 Mets starts by Game Score. From those, I have extracted the 11 Seaver wins, in which he scored a 90 or better. I can tell you that his highest score of those 11 was a 97, but I'm betting you won't guess which game that was for.

* The 90s
Tom Seaver posted a game score of exactly 90 in 3 of his Mets victories.
9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 11 K, W, 3-0, Pirates, August 1, 1973 (Game 1)

9 IP, 0 R, 5 H. 13 K, W, 5-0, Expos, May 17, 1974

9 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 10 K, W, 3-1, Pirates, September 26, 1971

Focusing briefly on the last of those, this is one of those forgotten Seaver gems, perhaps because it came so late in the season, and the game was of little significance. It did come against the eventual World Series champs though, albeit ones that didn't start Roberto Clemente that day. It figures that Clemente's sub, Vic Davalillo got the Pirates only hit, a clean single to right with no out in the seventh. Dave Cash had walked the batter prior, on a close 3-2 pitch, which may have broken Seaver's concentration, costing him a chance at history, but not a spot on this list.

True Metvers know... Roberto Clemente was hitless in the last 15 plate appearances he had against Tom Seaver. He finished a .242 hitter against Seaver with 21 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.

The 91
Tom Seaver posted a game score of 91 in one of his Mets wins
9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 13 K, W, 3-0, at Phillies, June 29, 1971

The Phillies got their scoring chances out of the way early in this game. They put runners on the corners in the first and things looked promising with the count 3-0 on Deron Johnson. Then came 6 straight strikes- 3 to Johnson and 3 more to Willie Montanez to end the inning, the threat, and basically the game.

The Mets got their runs on three home runs, solos by Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones and Ed Kranepool, the last two coming in the eighth inning to give Seaver some breathing room. Not that he needed it. Seaver got the last 12 outs of the game without allowing anything of harm.

Poor Johnson not only stranded the two runners in the first, but left two more on the basepaths when he struck out to end the third, hit into a double play to close the sixth, and lined to center in the ninth to allow Seaver to walk off a winner.

True Metvers know...Deron Johnson was the final out of three of Seaver's Mets victories, but the last time Johnson faced Seaver the Met, he got revenge, with a 2-run, 9th-inning game-winning home run on August 2, 1972.

The 92
Tom Seaver posted a game score of 92 in one of his Mets wins
9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 11 K, W, 2-0, Padres, July 4, 1971 (Game 1)

Yes, Seaver allowed only one hit, and it didn't come until Leron Lee lined a clean single to center with one out in the ninth inning, and I'm guessing the Metstorians of the world are mildly familiar with this game. But I bet they don't know how the Mets won it.

The two runs for the home team scored during a third-inning, two-out rally in which a Bud Harrelson single was followed by four straight walks.

The game-winning RBI in this one went to Jim Fregosi, of all people, who drew the third of four straight free passes from Padres starter, Clay Kirby.

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver was 39-0 with 10 no-decisions in starts for the Mets in which he posted a game score of 84 or better.

The 93
Tom Seaver posted a Game Score of 93 in one of his Mets wins
9 IP, 0R, 2 H, 12 K, W, 7-0 at Expos, September 6, 1971

Tom Seaver was a reasonably decent hitter during his Mets career. What distinguishes this game from some of the others we're writing about is that it's one in which Seaver showed some bat prowess. His 2-run single in the second inning was probably the most noteworthy moment of a victory that, during this season, was rather "routine" by his standards, one in which former Met Ron Hunt removed the no-hitter suspense with a leadoff single in the first inning. The Exppos would get only one hit the rest of the way, as Seaver set down the last 13 to close out an easy win.

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver posted 5 Game Scores of 90 or better in 1971. The NL Cy Young winner that season, Ferguson Jenkins, posted only 1 Game Score of 90 or better.

The 94
Tom Seaver posted a Game Score of 94 in one of his Mets wins
9 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 13 K, W, 1-0 at Pirates, September 29, 1972

Perhaps Seaver should get some bonus points for this one, considering...

- It got him his 20th win of the season.
- The game wasn't decided until a 9th-inning RBI hit by Tommie Agee.
- Seaver got Hall of Famer Willie Stargell to don the "Golden Sombrero," netting four strikeouts of Stargell in his 4 at-bats

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver's highest Game Score in his return to the Mets was an 87. That came courtesy of a 3-hit, 9 strikeout, 6-0 shutout of the Pirates in the first game of a doubleheader on April 20, 1983

The 95
Tom Seaver posted a Game Score of 95 in one of his Mets wins
9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 14 K, W, 1-0 vs Pirates, April 16, 1971

How's this for a season line against a team:
2 starts
18 innings
1 run
4 hits
24 strikeouts
1 walk
2 Game Scores of 90 or better

That's Tom Seaver against the 1971 World Series champion Pirates. Good thing for Seaver was that he got 'em early (April 16) and late (September 29).

In the first of those, the Pirates mustered three rather blah singles and were outdone by Donn Clendenon's fourth-inning home run. Seaver got better once he had the lead. Of the last 16 batters he faced, 15 went down, seven by strikeout. It's too bad the Mets couldn't pitch him every day.

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver's lowest Game Score in a win for the Mets came in a victory of great significance. On October 1, 1973, Seaver allowed 4 runs and 11 hits, striking out only 2 in 6 innings of a 6-4 win over the Cubs in mildly disgusting weather at Wrigley Field. That was good enough to post a Game Score of 36, but more importantly, clinched the NL East for the Mets.

The 96s
Tom Seaver posted a Game Score of 96 in two of his Mets victories
9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 11 K, W, 4-0 vs Cubs, July 9, 1969
9 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 19 K, W, 2-1 vs Padres, April 22, 1970

Jimmy Qualls.
10 straight strikeouts.

I don't know what more I can tell you about these two, other than that they are not considered, by Game Score, the best wins of Tom Seaver's career. Shocking, eh? Exposes a flaw or two in the system, yes, I agree. Game score does not have any sort of factor for amazin'ness. Sorry about that.

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver's no-hitter, for the Reds against the Cardinals, on June 16, 1978, was good enough for a Game Score of 87, likely due to Seaver recording only three strikeouts, while walking three as well.

The 97
9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 15 K, W, 4-0 at Phillies, May 15, 1970

Before Paul Hoover, but after Jimmy Qualls there was Mike Compton. Following in the tradition that encapsules Kit Pellow, Steve Ontiveros, Chin-Hui Tsao, Luis Aguayo, and Joey Amalfitano Mike Compton was the one blemish on the greatest Mets win that Tom Seaver ever had (mathematically speaking).

As the story, told by the New York Times goes, Compton was only on the roster by a total fluke, "promoted from the minor leagues two weeks ago when both varsity catchers broke bones in their hands in the same inning." Compton hit .164 in his lone major league season, with 18 hits, none of which were of the go-ahead variety. His greatest moment in the sun was in this game, in which his third inning single to right field produced the lone Phillies hit.

Other than that, Seaver was tremendous. In six of his innings, he struck out at least two batters. The newspaper notes that he survived not only a chest cold, but two errors, and a baserunning faux pas (Ron Swoboda passed Joe Foy inadvertently) to win, 4-0, giving the Mets their third 1-hitter in a 3-week span.

You could argue that this was not Seaver's best work. Perhaps it is his best forgotten work, since I'd never heard of this game, or Mike Compton, until doing the work for this story. I'm guessing you hadn't either, which makes me feel good knowing that this exercise was worthwhile.

True Metvers know...Tom Seaver actually had two Game Scores that surpassed 97. He scored a 98 by pitching 10 shutout innings of 3-hit, 14-strikeout ball in a no-decision, a 1-0 loss to the Padres on August 11, 1971. He also scored a 106 by working 12 innings, allowing 1 run and 3 hits, with 16 strikeouts, getting a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on May 1, 1974.


Anonymous said…
This is truly amazin'. The amount of work on this is staggering. Mets fans are not worthy of Seaver or this anonymous (wink, wink) blogger's skill. One game I wondered about was the no-hitter Seaver took into the ninth in Wrigley in 1975 that Joe Wallis broke up and the Mets lost a couple of innings later on a Skip Lockwood walk-off walk.
Anonymous said…
That game score was only a 90. Only. Must have been the five walks.

His top game score was in a loss, though it was hardly his fault: 12 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 16 K.

He had me at 12 IP.
Unknown said…
What an article! Thanks so much for that great insight, hope to read many more of these, its great to see the great games that you can't generally read about in the 'history books'.
Anonymous said…
Maybe the best way to judge Seaver when arguing which year was his best would be to see which season he had his best average game score: 1969, 1971 or 1973. It would be interesting.
But I'm surprised few have heard of the '70 no-hitter. Part of the problem with this game is that: 1. The Qualls game is the most famous of Seaver's no-nos, 2. It was overshadowed by the 19-K game which happened only a few weeks before and 3. There's very little record to remember it by. The Qualls game and the Leron Lee games both happened at Shea. This happened in Philly at Connie Mack. Photos of this game are rare. Plus there really wasn't any drama since the only hit happened early.
--- AH Slot Mode

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