If asked to name the biggest fluke season by a batter in Mets history, you might answer 1996 Bernard Gilkey or Lance Johnson from the same season. But what if we framed the question in a different way? What Met regular – defined here as someone who amassed at least 2,500 PA in their Mets career – had the most fluke numbers in a season with at least 100 games?
In some cases, fluke isn’t necessarily the right term. Some of these guys were really good players who were very consistent and had a year that was slightly better than others. But some of these guys, the word fluke definitely fits. With that out of the way, let’s run the chart of all of the hitters to amass 2,500 PA with the Mets and their career numbers in blue and oragne.
This chart is interesting all by itself. First, 2,500 isn’t all that big of a number – about four years of full-time play – so it’s a tiny bit surprising that only 29 players made the cut. And six players didn’t even reach a lifetime 100 wRC+ with the Mets, with one of them being primarily a first baseman – yuck. It’s interesting how Wright (133), Piazza (134) and Hernandez (132) all had very similar production in their careers with the Mets. Also, it was a surprise to me that Foster had more PA than Kingman. But perhaps the biggest surprise to me was that Doug Flynn didn’t make the list, as he had just 2,269 PA with the Mets. It seemed like he grounded out 1,000 times more than that.
Now let’s run another chart. Let’s take this group of 29 players and instead of looking at their career numbers with the Mets, this time we’ll look at their best individual season in BABIP, wOBA and wRC+. Then we’ll compare that to their lifetime marks in those categories and look for the biggest differences.
We should note that these are the best marks in these three categories in a season with 100 games. Often, like with Jones in 1969, all three numbers came in the same season. But it didn’t have to be that way. Agee had his three numbers come in three separate seasons. Also, you’ll see players with best season marks nearly identical to their career numbers. They could be extremely consistent. Or they could have years with fewer than 100 games played with great numbers, which helped bring up their lifetime with the Mets marks. For example, Beltran had a .352 BABIP in 81 games in 2009 and a 150 wRC+ in 98 games in 2011
The Mets regular who had one season where the hits fell in at the biggest difference from his lifetime mark with the club was Grote in 1968. The year before, Grote had a .226 BABIP and the year afterwards, he checked in with a .285 mark. It’s interesting to compare guys who played the same position and see what numbers they put up. While Grote was nearly able to match Piazza in BABIP in their best seasons, Piazza held a 100-point edge in wOBA and a 56-point advantage in wRC+. Grote held a 70-point BABIP advantage on Stearns yet had a 21-point deficit in wOBA and a 13-point shortfall in wRC+ in their best seasons.
Another interesting position comparison is at first base with Duda and Milner. Duda held a 48-point edge in BABIP in their best season but their wOBA and wRC+ numbers were nearly duplicates of one another. And while he’s not a position match, Staub’s best seasons in these numbers falls in the same vicinity as Duda and Milner. My guess is that no one reading this would have considered Duda’s best hitting season was equal, or slightly better, than Staub’s.
The season that had the biggest difference from career mark in wOBA was Jones’ big year in 1969, which just edged out Hundley’s monster 1997 season. Hundley played more games in 1996 and put up better counting numbers in the earlier season. And if you recall from the beginning, ’96 was the year that Gilkey and Johnson had the big fluke years. The Mets that year had a pretty good big three for a team that lost 91 games, as Gilkey had a 155 OPS+, Hundley had a 140 and Johnson had a 125. For a comparison, the 2004 team also lost 91 games and their top 3 OPS+ marks were 119, 111 and 109.
Finally, the biggest wRC+ surplus in an individual season was the 44 points above career average by Johnson in 1989, the only time in his eight seasons where he played 100 games where he had a BABIP over .300, as he had a .308 mark. Just imagine the numbers he would have put up that season if he had Grote in ’68 BABIP luck. Still, Johnson put up a 7.0 fWAR in ’89, tied with ’08 Wright for the seventh-best mark by a hitter in Mets history. Gilkey in ’96 had a 7.6 mark.