Posted by Neil Paine on October 18, 2010
Here's an interesting question sent to us by B-R reader Phil:
"I've been a Mets fan since 1967, when, as the youngest kid in my neighborhood, I needed something to differentiate myself from the older kids who grew up Yankees fans at the tail end of the dynasty. In 1969, God performed his last certified Miracle. As I've learned more about baseball over the last 40 years, I've come to wonder: did the Mets 1969 pitching staff have the best 'potential' of any staff? By that I mean, did they have the most wins left in them?"
He goes on to detail what he means:
"At the end of 1968:
- Tom Seaver had won 32 games of 311 win career. He had 279 games left to win. (Obviously, not all for the Mets.)
- Jerry Koosman had won 19 games of a 222 win career. He had 203 wins left.
- Nolan Ryan had won 6 games of a 324 win career. He had 318 wins left.
- Tug McGraw had won 4 games of a 96 win career. He had 92 wins left.
Totaled, that's 892 "potential wins" (for lack of a better term). What other teams can we compare this to?
I'd love to see the results, which would hopefully validate my Amazing Mets as the leader in this category."
This is a great idea, and I'm going to expand it to include every pitcher on a staff (rather than just the starters). Including the year in question, which team's pitching staff had the most wins in their future?
The '69 Mets rank near the top, but are ultimately 15th in MLB history in team "future wins". The staff with the most future wins belonged to the '78 Dodgers, who had only one pitcher with 200+ wins in his future, but six others with at least 100 left in their arms, plus 76 more from Burt Hooton. The Cardinals of 1969-71 also had an impressive group of future winners with Steve Carlton, Jerry Reuss, Mike Torrez, Reggie Cleveland, & the legendary Bob Gibson, among others.
However, every sabermetrician worth their salt would tell you that wins aren't exactly the most informative stat in the world for pitchers. Which staffs show up with the brightest futures if we use Wins Above Replacement instead?
It turns out that when we look at "potential wins" through the prism of Wins Above Replacement, Phil's 1968-71 Mets do in fact rank as the staff with the most future performance remaining in their collective arms.