Everyone loves a list, regardless if it’s a “best of,” or “worst of,” or “top ten.” Recently, The Athletic’s Marc Carig came up on Twitter with his best MLB lineup of all time and seemingly everyone followed suit. Now, Carig is far from the first one to ever do it. But he did it at the right time, in the right forum, and it’s taken on an extended shelf life. Good for him!
Of course, this question can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. How do you compare Ty Cobb, who played during the days of spitballs, train travel and segregation, to Mike Trout? Both were the greatest center fielders of their era and we’re not likely to get any more definitive than that.
But, if we do it on an individual team level, we’re going to get a much better answer. Especially if you do it for an expansion club that started after the game was integrated. Which makes doing it about the Mets a no-brainer. Here’s the all-time Mets team, with the focus on a single year, rather than what they did in their career. People get selected to the team based on their fWAR but the lineup is mine. And it’s much more of a difficult decision than you might think, as five of the eight players predominantly hit third in their best Mets season.
1. David Wright, 3B (2007, 8.4 fWAR, .325/.416/.546)
It’s certainly odd to think of Wright as a leadoff hitter. But a .416 OBP and 34 steals certainly won’t look out of place as the first guy in an order. It’s interesting to ponder if Wright would have adjusted his game to sacrifice power to be more of a prototypical leadoff hitter if asked to do so. And given that third base was such a problem for the franchise for so long, it should be noted that Robin Ventura and Howard Johnson put up seasons worthy of being on this list – just not as good as Wright’s.
2. John Olerud, 1B (1998, 8.1 fWAR, .354/.447/.551)
If you were around to see him play on the Mets, this one isn’t such a big surprise. Olerud played just three seasons with the Mets before he left as a free agent to be closer to his home. It was a shame because he was so good but few, if any, begrudged his decision, unlike a certain LHP who left the following year to play in Colorado. Here it is 20 years later and there’s still regret he didn’t stick around one more year and make it with the Mets to the World Series.
3. Bernard Gilkey, LF (1996, 7.6 fWAR, .317/.393/.562)
If it were my list without using numbers, the left fielder would probably be 1969 Cleon Jones but Gilkey edged him out for best year even if it was the biggest fluke season in team history. It may seem odd that out of all the third-place hitters on this team that Gilkey gets the honor of hitting third. But his ability to do everything, in this season, gives him the nod.
4. Carlos Beltran, CF (2006, 7.8 fWAR, .275/.388/.594)
That amazing .319 ISO is what earns Beltran the cleanup nod. It’s my sincere hope that what happened with Beltran in 2017 and beyond doesn’t keep people from remembering what a fabulous player he was with the Mets.
5. Gary Carter, C (1985, 6.7 fWAR, .281/.365/.488)
It was a surprise to me that Mike Piazza wasn’t the backstop on this team. But this was the last great season in Carter’s career and he was still a good defensive catcher at this point, too.
6. Darryl Strawberry, RF (1990, 6.5 fWAR, .277/.361/.518)
This wasn’t the best offensive season for Strawberry but it was his best overall season thanks to being a plus defender in right. Perhaps the 1987 version would have batted before Carter; perhaps the 1990 version should bat higher, too.
7. Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B (2000, 6.4 fWAR, .324/.425/.542)
And maybe Alfonzo should hit fifth.
8. Jose Reyes, SS (2011, 5.8 fWAR, .337/.384/.493)
Shortstop was actually a tie between this year and 2008 Reyes but this one was picked so we could get a season from someone in the Mets360 era on the club. Also, first half Reyes, before the injury, was such a joy to watch. Not that ’08 Reyes wasn’t fun but the 2011 version before the break was better.
With the pitchers, we’re still going to take the top fWAR producers but allowing just one year per player.
SP1 – 1971 Tom Seaver (9.1 fWAR, 286.1 IP, 1.76 ERA)
A three-time Cy Young Award winner, it’s interesting that his two best years did not result in him getting the award for top pitcher. While he won in ’69, ’73 and ’75, his two best seasons by fWAR were ’71 and ’70. Seaver owns four of the top eight seasons in team history.
SP2 – 2018 Jacob deGrom (9.0 fWAR, 217 IP, 1.70 ERA)
Backed with the lineup above, deGrom would have won more than 10 games this season.
SP3 – 1985 Dwight Gooden (8.9 fWAR, 276.2 IP, 1.53 ERA)
The three greatest pitching seasons in club history are separated by 0.2 fWAR. It’s kind of remarkable when you think about it. Perhaps the only thing more incredible is that there are two seasons better than this one.
SP4 – 1974 Jon Matlack (7.5 fWAR, 265.1 IP, 2.41 ERA)
Well, I certainly didn’t see this one coming. If you told me the rules, how no pitcher could be selected more than once, and asked me who the fourth starter would be, 10 guesses wouldn’t have arrived at the right answer. Certainly, would have guessed ’72 Matlack before the ’74 version. The one area where ’74 Matlack excelled was keeping the ball in the park. He had a HR/9 of 0.27 and for a comparison, ’18 deGrom had a 0.41 rate in the same category.
SP5 – 2013 Matt Harvey (6.9 fWAR, 178.1 IP, 2.27 ERA)
Perhaps not as big of a surprise as ’74 Matlack but it’s still shocking that a pitcher with this few innings would make the team. Much like with Beltran, there is a lot of things that happened with Harvey which make recalling his performance at his best difficult. Gooden had the same issue but it’s easier to recall his big year because it happened with a team on the rise. The 2013 Mets went 74-88.
Generally, my preference is to use other stats besides fWAR to judge relievers. But we’ve come this far so we might as well keep going.
RP1 – 1999 Armando Benitez (3.1 fWAR, 1.85 ERA, 1.038 WHIP)
The reliever everyone loves to hate. Seemed to save his worst for the worst-possible moment but a few high-profile meltdowns are leading the narrative.
RP2 – 2016 Addison Reed (2.4 fWAR, 1.97 ERA, 0.940 WHIP)
Like Olerud, he was terrific in his brief Mets’ career. It’s too bad they didn’t get more for him when he was traded but that’s not his fault.
RP3 – 1977 Skip Lockwood (2.3 fWAR, 3.38 ERA, 1.135 WHIP)
The ’76 version of Lockwood posted the same fWAR. The ’77 version had the edge in innings (104 to 94.1) and gets the nod. Plus, it’s nice to see a guy from a 64-win team get recognition.
RP4 – 2019 Seth Lugo (2.3 fWAR, 2.70 ERA, 0.900 WHIP)
Outside of a three-game stretch in late June he was lights out for most of the year. Gave up 8 ER in his last 31 games and five of those came in one appearance.
RP5 – 1983 Jesse Orosco (2.2 fWAR, 1.47 ERA, 1.036 WHIP)
The future LOOGY finished with 110 IP in 62 games this season and finished third in the Cy Young Award race and even drew some MVP support. Won 13 games in relief.