Over at ArmchairGM, friend of the site Dan Lewis has issued a challenge.
Consider yourself challenged. Your job: Beat my Mets.
I went through the last 25 years of Mets history — 1983 through 2006, inclusive — and put together a team. A starter at each position. A backup catcher, middle infielder, and outfielder. An extra bat off the bench. A defensive replacement-type. Five starters, 1 closer, and five relievers.
Easy? Sure, except:
* I took only one player per year.
* Once I used a player, he couldn’t be used again (e.g. only one Dwight Gooden)
* The player really needed to have the position he’s in — so I couldn’t put Todd Hundley as a backup catcher or use John Olerud off the bench.
* Your rotation’s order has to be reasonable. That’s not really hard, but whatever.
Consider this entry my response to said challenge. Dan used OPS+ and ERA+ as barometers for greatness, but I’m going to use runs created for batters and SNLVAR for starting pitchers and WXRL for relievers. Given a little more time I might have used WARP instead, but RC and RS will be able replacements. Onward and upward!
Catcher, Mike Piazza, 2001, 110 runs created
I could have easily taken Piazza’s 2000 (117 runs created) or his 1999 (112 runs created), but his ‘01 season wasn’t too far off of his peak years, and it left those other years open to some guys who might have had better years. Though it was the last time he would hit .300 as a Met, Piazza still hit a robust .300/.384/.573.
First Base, John Olerud, 1998, 138 runs created
By runs created, this was the greatest offensive season in Mets history. Olerud hit .354/.447/.551, which is pretty staggering when you sit down and think about it. In addition to hitting .354 (!), Olerud drew 96 walks to just 73 strikeouts, and played a pretty nifty first base to boot. Definitely one of my top three favorite Mets of all time, despite playing just three seasons in Queens. Sadly, this selection precluded me from using Al Leiter’s 1998, but such is life.
Second Base, Edgardo Alfonzo, 1999, 122 runs created
Like Piazza, the year I chose for Fonzie wasn’t quite his best (he created 125 runs in 2000), but it was really only marginally worse, and you learn pretty quickly in this exercise that you have to make concessions in order to fit your team within the rules. Fonzie’s rate stats were better in 2000, but he had 75 more plate appearances in 1999, thus the comparable RC. Without question, Alfonzo was the best second baseman the Mets have ever had.
Third Base, Howard Johnson, 1989, 119 runs created
One of the best hitters the Mets have ever had, 1989 was HoJo’s best (Dan and I agree on this one).
Shortstop, Jose Vizcaino, 1995, 62 runs created
Ugh, slim pickings here. I wanted Jose’s 2006, but if I didn’t take Beltran, the next available centerfielder would have been Brian McRae (Lance Johnson’s 1997 was kiboshed by Gilkey’s superiority that year). I also wanted Jose’s 2005, but Pedro trumped him there. Vizcaino it is.
Left Field, Bernard Gilkey, 1996, 127 runs created
Gilkey was absolutely awesome in 1996. Dan says “Not bad, but really not all that great for a “best of” team in a hitter-friendly position like LF.” Dan doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is the second or third best offensive season in franchise history. The Innocent One was worth more than eleven games above replacement that year, hitting .317/.393/.562 and playing terrific defense.
Center Field, Carlos Beltran, 2006, 118 runs created
I love Carlos Beltran.
Right Field, Darryl Strawberry, 1987, 122 runs created
Dan and I agree here; the next closest right fielder season was Strawberry’s 1988 (109 RC), so I’m happy to take this one. It’s easy to forget what a dominating player Straw was in his prime. In 1987 he hit .284/.398/.583 with 36 steals (in 48 tries), walking 97 times and clubbing 39 homeruns.
Designated Hitter, Bobby Bonilla, 1993, 94 runs created
Actually a pretty good player for the Mets, fans would never let Bonilla forget that he was the highest paid player in baseball at the time, nor the fact that he wasn’t Barry Bonds.
Dwight Gooden, 1985, 12.7 SNLVAR
Any “Best Of” list for Mets pitchers has to begin with Gooden’s epic 1985 season. Bested only in SNLVAR by Sandy Koufax’s otherworldly 1966 campaign (that’s for all teams since 1960, folks), Doc rocked a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts in 276.2 innings, going 24-4 en route to a unanimous Cy Young selection.
Frank Viola, 1990, 8.1 SNLVAR
Oh, that sweet, sweet music Viola used to play us. 2.67 ERA in 249.2 innings, finished third in the Cy Young voting that year.
Pedro Martinez, 2005, 7.6 SNLVAR
Before Pedro was injured all the time he was awesome, even as a Met.
Mike Hampton, 2000, 6.6 SNLVAR
Many remember Hampton getting off to a rough start in 2000. Many also remember him leaving unceremoniously for Colorado and its incomparable school systems. Many forget that Hampton was terrific in his only year as a Met, posting a 3.14 ERA over 217.2 innings (he also hit .274 that year), and he eventually won the NLCS MVP in the series against the Cardinals.
Rick Reed, 1997, 6.5 SNLVAR
They called him the poor man’s Greg Maddux and, well, even in his best year he was a very poor version of Maddux (Mad Dog had a 9.1 SNLVAR in 1997).
Armando Benitez, 2002, 5.915 WXRL
While his 2000 was unbelievable, I didn’t have 2000 to choose from on account of taking Hampton earlier, so Benitez’s 2002 had to do. In fact, it was just a shade below the 6.011 WXRL he posted in 2000, helped in large part by lower walk and homerun rates.
Randy Myers, 1988, 5.617 WXRL
Jesse Orosco, 1983, 5.576 WXRL
Braden Looper, 2004, 3.618 WXRL
Doug Sisk, 1984, 3.122 WXRL
David Weathers, 2003, 2.806 WXRL
I kind of cheated here, since I took four closers (Dan only took one). Oh well.
Kevin Mitchell, 1986, 44 runs created
Keith Miller, 1991, 38 runs created
Chico Walker, 1992, 36 runs created
Rico Brogna, 1994, 31 runs created
Ron Hodges, 1982, 31 runs created
I didn’t really break down the bench, I just took five guys who weren’t full-timers. It should come as no surprise that we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here in the early nineties, one of the most futile stretches in recent memory.