To win a baseball game, a team needs to outscore its opponents. To do that, it needs to prevent the other team from scoring as many runs as it does. The leader of the prevention part is the pitcher.
No batter leads the offense the same way that a pitcher leads the defense. He — and the catcher — are involved in the most plays in a game, but the pitcher plays a bigger role because what he does initiates the majority of a game’s plays.
A measure of a pitcher’s success in limiting other teams’ run scoring is the RE24 stat. An RE24 of zero means the player is average. On some websites, the higher a pitcher’s RE24, AKA run value, the better the pitcher performed, so a value of +24 would be much better than -24.
Sites that express it that way are Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Stathead with Baseball Reference now calling the RE24 for pitchers “Base-Out Runs Saved“; whereas, on other sites, such as Baseball Savant, it is the opposite: the lower a pitcher’s run value, the better. A value of -24 would be much better than +24.
Further, the complexity of the RE24 calculation has increased substantially since its early days when it was based on just base/out states and outs. For example, today on Baseball Savant, there is a Pitch Arsenal Stats Leaderboard giving a pitcher’s run value based on pitch type (e.g., changeup) “and on the runners on base, out, [and] ball and strike count,” and a Swing & Take Leaderboard giving for a pitcher a run value based on a pitch’s “outcome (ball, strike, home run, etc).”
In the chart below, the Mets top two starters in each decade based upon their RE24 totals (base-out state) in that decade are shown. The decade leaders are Tom Seaver (twice), Dwight Gooden, Rick Reed, Al Leiter, and (so far in this decade) Jacob deGrom (twice). Those five would make a starting rotation that few Mets fans would complain about.
The second-place finishers include Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Sid Fernandez, Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, R. A. Dickey, and Marcus Stroman. Further, Matlack had a higher RE24 than did the first-place finisher in two other full decades: the 1990s and 2000s. Even the second-place finishers would make a strong starting rotation.
One pitcher yet to throw a pitch for the Mets, but who is now a member of the team, Max Scherzer, has in his 14 years in Major League Baseball accumulated an RE24 of 318.5. In that timespan, only two other pitchers have accumulated a higher RE24: Justin Verlander is at 327.22, and Clayton Kershaw is at 431.64.
And in the decade from 2010 to 2019, Scherzer remains in third place with Jacob deGrom in eighth and Carlos Carrasco 33rd.