Jeff Suppan broke into the majors at age 20, pitched in parts of 17 seasons with seven different teams, turned in 4.70 ERA, won a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals and earned approximately $58 million dollars for his career.
And now it's over.
Suppan announced his retirement Tuesday, and though he didn't say what the future holds, he and his wife own a successful restaurant in California and he might go into politics. Suppan hasn't pitched since 2012, when he started six games with the San Diego Padres.
What do I remember about Jeff Suppan? His relative consistency on the mound despite dangerously low strikeout rates, his friendly and engaging nature during interviews and the colorful shirts he frequently wore as street clothes. (Sometimes an Aloha pattern, sometimes just colorful, Tommy Bahama-kind of stuff.)
"There goes, a nice guy, probably, were I really to get to know him," I might have said to myself.
More pertinent to baseball, Suppan made at least 30 starts every season from 1999 to 2009. He posted an ERA that was better than league average seven times in that span, highlighted by his '05 season with the Cardinals, when he went 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA. Suppan won the NLCS MVP in '06 against the Mets and started Game 4 of the World Series against the Tigers, whom the Cardinals beat. He also could hit, for a pitcher, kind of, batting .173/.221/.195 with a home run, seven doubles and 24 walks. He also batted .286 in 18 plate appearances during the playoffs, including a home run in the '06 NLCS.
The totality of his career stats appear mediocre; the only time he ever led the league in anything, it was in home runs allowed. But it was Suppan's peak success that puts him among the best 6.9 percent (or so) of all pitchers in major league history.
Suppan accumulated 15.9 wins above replacement for his career, going by Baseball-Reference's terms of WAR, but he scores better when accounting for his best seasons. Using Jay Jaffe's WAR Score system, Suppan rates as the 549th best pitcher ever. Not bad, considering that some 8,000 or so men have pitched in the majors.
Good luck to Suppan, and may he frequently be wearing a colorful shirt.
Big BLS H/N: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports
- - - - - - -