No. 1) Bret Saberhagen 1989
That’s right. We think Saberhagen’s 1989 season was even better than his 1985 one. That’s why Taylor Swift named one of her albums “1989” in honor of the best individual season by a Kansas City Royals pitcher. While the former part of the previous sentence may or may not be true, the latter part certainly is.
Despite not having the postseason boost his campaign, Saberhagen undoubtedly pitched better throughout his 1989 season. Across the board, his statistics were better than in 1985. Record? 23-6 vs. 20-6. ERA and WHIP? 2.16 and 0.98 vs. 2.87 and 1.06. Strikeout-to-walk ratio? 4.49 to 4.16. Everything was better than four years prior; everything was better than any other pitcher in 1989, as well.
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Saberhagen held (or was tied for) the league lead among starters in the following categories: wins, complete games (12), innings (262 1/3), ERA, WHIP, K:BB ratio, FIP (2,45) and ERA+ (180). It’s unsurprising that he brought home his second Cy Young award at the end of the season.
For good measure, Saberhagen won the only Gold Glove of his career and finished ninth in MVP voting. He actually didn’t make the All-Star team, despite a solid 8-4 record and 2.61 ERA in the first half. Perhaps fueled by the snub, Saberhagen reeled off a sensational 15-2 record and 1.74 ERA in the second half. Ironically, he earned an All-Star nod the following season with a 5-7 record and a 2.98 ERA before the Midsummer Classic.
After the 1991 season, the Kansas City Royals traded Saberhagen to the Mets. He had a couple good years with New York, including an outstanding 1994 season cut short by the strike. Saberhagen finished out his career with half a season in Colorado, which included the franchise’s first postseason trip, and a few years in Boston.
However, it’s Saberhagen’s time with the Kansas City Royals that will go down as the best portion of his career. A career that includes the two best individual seasons by a pitcher in franchise history.