If you ask most Mets fans, they will tell you that Dwight Gooden probably has had the best single-season pitching performance by a Met back in 1985 (13.2 WAR!). Nobody comes close to that. It’s the best performance in the post Babe Ruth era, with only Steve Carlton posting a 12.5 in 1972 coming close. The Mets are known for their pitching, between Seaver/Doc/Dickey, they have won 5 Cy Young awards since 1969. What the Mets are not really known for is their hitting. We’ve seen some Mets position players come excruciatingly close to winning an MVP. There have been 10 times a Mets player has placed in the top 5 in MVP voting, with Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez coming closest, finishing 2nd.
So how does one determine exactly who has had the best offensive season? Being that there are no MVP awards to point to (and if there were there would be no point to this entire article), let play with some advanced numbers here. For starters, I only qualified players if they reached a minimum of 500 plate appearances (502 is the minimum to qualify for any batting title). This means some seasons were disqualified, apologies to 1985 Darryl Strawberry, 2013 David Wright (10 short!) and 1998 Mike Piazza. I also used another cutoff, just so I didn’t have to go through 50+ seasons. I set the next cutoff at 140 wRC+. For those of you who don’t know, wRC stands for Weighted Runs Created, an improved version of Runs Created. Without hopefully sounding too confusing, here is a quick breakdown of all the stats I’m going to be referencing, and how you can understand them:
RC (Runs Created) – a stat created by Bill James to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by the number of runs a player contributes to their team.
wRC (Weighted Runs Created) – takes the formula used by Bill James, and tweaks it by adding wOBA
wOBA – based on the concept that not all hits are created equally. On Base is just a straight measurement of how often a player gets on base, but doesn’t really quantify how they got on base. wOBA does.
wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created +) – takes wRC and makes it both park and league adjusted in order to compare players. League average is 100. Every 1 percentage point above 100 means that player created 1% more runs than league average.
oWAR – Offensive War as calculated by Baseball Reference.
Are you still with me? Good. Here are all the players who qualified:
I chose 140 wRC+ as the minimum because that represents a player who was 40% better than league average, which is a fantastic season. Anything in bold represents just the highest on this list; it may not be the best in Mets history, however. It would be easy to look at John Olerud and see that not only does he have the highest wRC+, but he also has the highest wOBA, OBP and AVG. Is that really the greatest offensive season in Mets history? He didn’t knock in or score 100 runs; he didn’t hit 30 homers, how much value could he have created? And he did that batting either 3rd or 4th in the order. This is where oWAR comes into play. How many wins did he add with his offensive value? If you look at oWAR, Olerud’s season comes in at #7.
Picking the greatest offensive Mets season is so arbitrary, everyone has their own way of measuring greatness. For my method, I have assigned an overall ranking based on a 1-24 scale 1 being the highest in this category, 24 being the lowest. The categories I have chosen: HR, OPS, wOBA, wRC+, oWAR and MVP. It seems kind of arbitrary to consider MVP, as that isn’t based on any real number. I included it because it’s a reflection of how baseball writers saw the season as it happened, and voted as to who they thought was the MVP that season. I didn’t choose RBI because many times a hitter doesn’t necessarily control who is on base in front of them. I didn’t choose AVG or OBP because those numbers are better reflected in OPS and wOBA.
Lowest is best. Here’s how the players scored:
There you have it. According to my just created, completely arbitrary rankings, 1987 Darryl Strawberry had the best offensive season in Mets history. It isn’t really close either. He scored 6 points fewer than anyone else on this list. This comes completely as a surprise to me, as once I had pulled the raw data, I was guessing 2006 Beltran, 1988 Strawberry or even 1989 Howard Johnson as a dark horse. So this begs the question: Why did 1988 Strawberry finish 2nd and 1987 Strawberry finish 6th in MVP voting? Was Strawberry robbed of an MVP? That’s another story for another column.
One final note: What was Bernard Gilkey doing in 1996!?