Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Take him or leave him - Don Sutton

A few weeks ago, I put up a post here talking about players that I didn't really have strong feelings about.  I invited anyone who wanted to write up a guest post about any of the players and help me get a better feel for why that player is great and deserves my collecting attention.  Well, I am happy to announce that the third response is in!!  

Previous 'Take him or leave him' posts:
Ferguson Jenkins
Chris Sale/Rafael Bournigal

Today's player appreciation post is from the great grcl of cards as i see them. And the player that he will be lauding is Don Sutton!  Needless to say, since he was on my list, Sutton has never caught my imagination.  I didn't dislike him, but there was no spark either.  Let's see how grcl helps me out!


do you sutton?

let me tell you a tale of two pitchers, one of whom is don sutton.

both pitched in the majors for 23 years. sutton, over the course of his career, completed 5282 and one-third innings over 774 appearances, while pitcher b threw 5008 and one-third innings in 744 games pitched.  sutton spent six seasons pitching in the american league, while pitcher b was a career national leaguer.

sutton won 324 games over his career. pitcher b, 355. wins are somewhat arbitrary though, right? so how about this – sutton struck out 3574 batters in his career, while pitcher b k’d 3371. sutton accumulated those strikeout totals even though his season high was 217 in 1969. pitcher b’s season high for strikeouts was 204. what about one of the other true outcomes of the game? well, sutton did surrender 1343 walks while pitcher b gave up only 999 bases on balls.  however, in terms of baserunners allowed, sutton’s career whip is 1.1425, and pitcher b’s is just behind at 1.1431. sutton’s career era is 3.26, putting him just behind bob feller and catfish hunter on the all-time list, while pitcher b’s is 3.16.

sutton was on teams that won 5 pennants, although he only pitched in four world series. pitcher b appeared in 3 world series. both had won-loss records of 2-3 in the fall classic. sutton finished in the top 5 in cy young award voting five years in a row, while pitcher b did the same seven straight seasons, with a couple more top 5 finishes to boot.

now, i am not suggesting that sutton was better than or even equal to pitcher b, as their careers overlapped by just a couple of seasons and the game was different in many ways over the course of their respective careers. however, i was trying to demonstrate that longevity in the game is not a thing to be used as an excuse for dismissing a player’s counting stats. such was the case with sutton, a hall of fame pitcher who, over the course of his career, struck out more major league hitters than all but three men who had ever played the game up to that point. and, even now, some 30 years after his retirement, there are only six men who have more strikeouts to their name than sutton.

but what if sutton had retired after the 1983 season, the year in which he surpassed the magical 3000 strikeout mark?

he only had 266 wins, but the 3065 k’s should have been enough to get him in to cooperstown. at that point, he had 18 seasons under his belt, and his whip was 1.119. that would have been good for about 27th place all-time back then, and would even today have him ahead of the likes of tom seaver.

however, sutton did continue to pitch for five more seasons, and some of his stats suffered for it – for example, his era over those five years was 3.99. of course, some stats, like wins and strikeouts, benefitted from it. big deal. nobody was complaining when greg maddux kept pitching into his 40’s with a 4.16 era over his last five seasons.

yes, greg maddux is pitcher b. the greatest pitcher of his generation has career stats that aren’t that different from sutton’s. sutton was certainly never as dominant as maddux, and pitching in different eras does mean something, but there have been over 19,000 people who have appeared in the major leagues, and only a handful have better career numbers than don sutton, regardless of era.

sutton was the only hall of fame player on the team of my youth and because of that, he is prominent in my collection. i would suggest that you consider making him at least a small part of yours.

however, if stats aren’t your thing, consider putting together a ‘don sutton suttons’ mini collection. he has championed a few standard pitching poses on baseball cards, but none more often than what i call his “suttoning” pose.

besides, sutton played for a few different teams with some cool uniforms as evidenced by the cards scattered through this post. any number of these cards would bring a colorful boost to your collection.

plus, if you can appreciate guys who kind of dress like disco stu

you’ve got to give sutton a chance.

(more on that photo and others like it in a future post at cards as i see them).


Wow, awesome!  Thanks grcl.  My love of baseball is very tied to either statistics or cool stories.  That's true for pretty much all players.  This writeup hit the stats angle hard, and I loved the comparison to a mystery player!  For a while, I thought it was Warren Spahn, but then I remembered that Spahn won 363 games, not 355.  Pretty impressive when you compare Sutton so closely to Maddux!!

I looked through my keepers box and the only Sutton cards I currently have are the 1969 and 1970 topps issues.  I'll have to remedy that!!  All of the cards grcl used in this posts are definitely candidates too.  I especially like the O-Pee-Chee traded card, but they are all great!  And I will be looking for when some card company makes the disco stu card!!

Thanks again grcl!

And if anyone out there reading would like to do one of these writeups and help me appreciate a player you love, feel free.  Below are the players I thought of, but if you want to do one that is not on the list, let me know!!

Jose Altuve
James Shields
David Price
Manny Machado
Fergie Jenkins - taken
Cole Hamels
Alan Trammel
Don Sutton - taken
Roy Halladay
Andrew McCutchen
Chris Sale - taken
Carlos Beltran
Barry Larkin
Mike Mussina
Matt Holliday
George Springer
Gary Sanchez
Freddie Freeman
Nolan Arenado
Charlie Blackmon


  1. When I saw 355, I figured it was Maddux you were comparing him to. Didn't realize their numbers were so close. But I remember Sutton for being part of a group of pitchers that dominated the 70's. I'll have to make sure I have his autograph for my collection.

  2. Looks like folks can "leave" sutton! Thanks for letting me post!