Monday, June 07, 2010

Thinking About Jerry Koosman

Been thinking a lot lately about Jerry Koosman. And there are a lot of reasons. The main reason he's been on the brain a lot is because of his 2009 conviction of tax evasion which netted him six months in jail. From the looks of things, his malfeasance was more to due with ignorance than it was with trying to swindle the government. He must be out of jail by now since he was sentenced on September 9 of 2009, but there hasn't been any stories about his release. Getting convicted seems more newsworthy than doing your time apparently.

The Fan grew up with Jerry Koosman. He was on the other New York team when the Fan grew up in New Jersey. He was the forgotten half of a baseball card that was among the most valuable for many years. Most people know that card as Topps #177 in 1968 with a certain fellow named Nolan Ryan sharing the double billing. That card goes for hundreds of dollars and certainly has sold for more at times. That card probably features more wins than any other rookie card in history. The Fan also remembers that card because he had several copies of it in a collection that was thrown out by the Fan's mom when the Fan went off to college. Ouch. People remember Ryan, but only long-time Mets' fans remember Koosman.

It's funny how history remembers players. Koosman and Tom Seaver anchored the rotation for those Miracle Mets when they won their World Series against all odds. Seaver is the Hall of Famer and was more of a power pitcher. He would top out with two years at 280+ strikeouts. Koosman topped out in the high 100s. But there can certainly be an argument that Koosman was as good or maybe better than Seaver in 1968 and 1969. Well, maybe not in 1969 but certainly in 1968. The big difference between the two pitchers is that when the Mets bottomed out again after their championship, Seaver kept on winning for those bad teams while Koosman lost a lot. Take 1977 for example: Seaver ended up with a FIP ERA of 2.94 (FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching which takes some of the luck out of the numbers) while Koosman finished with a FIP ERA of 3.14. Not much different right? But Seaver went 21-6 that year while Koosman went 8-20.

Jerry Koosman ended up with 220 wins against 209 losses. His career ERA was 3.79 with a FIP ERA of 3.54. He had seven losing seasons out of the eighteen years he pitched. In those seven seasons, his FIP ERA for those seasons went like this: 3.18, 2.78, 3.18, 3.14, 3.34, 3.43 and 2.85. In all of those seasons except one, his FIP ERA was lower than his actual ERA meaning that he pitched much better than his results indicated. His record during those seven years was 60-101. If you can assume that the FIP ERAs indicate that he should have been AT LEAST a .500 pitcher during those years, You could say he should have been 240-189 in his career, which looks a lot more impressive than his final record.

He won 20 games twice, once with the Mets and once for the Twins. He won 19 games in first full season in the majors. To sum up his career, he was a really good pitcher for a really long time.

So yeah, the Fan has been thinking a lot about Jerry Koosman. He was a great left-handed compliment to Tom Seaver all those years. He won 220 games. He was the forgotten half of one of the most famous baseball cards of all time. And he went to jail. That's quite a variety of reasons to remember somebody. Fortunately, unlike most ex-cons who have to find a way to make a living after their jail time, Koosman still gets his $130,000 a year in pension money from MLB. So he's not going to starve after his time was paid to society.

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