Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sutton redux

Yet another gone.  I'm not breaking any news when I tell you that Don Sutton passed away.  And I am not the best one to write a post telling you what he meant to me.  So instead, I am reposting a guest post from gcrl about his affections for Don Sutton.  Please enjoy...

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.


Rest in Peace Mr Sutton.


  1. thanks kevin. hopefully there will be a respite in the passing of those we admire(d).

  2. Yikes. Maddux had a 4.16 ERA over his last 5 seasons? I guess when he was in SD, I was just happy that he was pitching for a team I like.

    As for Sutton... I know he'll always be remembered for his time with the Dodgers. But when I was a kid, I remember seeing him on cards with the Angels and Brewers.