Opening Day is nearly here, folks. And soon enough after that, regular season baseball will be in full force across MLB. After a 101-win campaign and a disappointingly premature exit from the postseason, the Mets are expected to be contenders once again.
We watched shortstop Francisco Lindor put together a performance fit for the record books in 2022. So, as we gear up for another year of Mets baseball, below are the best overall seasons in franchise history, according to FanGraphs’ WAR metric (fWAR).
Best Mets seasons at each position
Catcher: Gary Carter, 6.7 fWAR in 1985
.281/.365/.488 with 32 home runs and 100 RBI
After spending 11 star-studded years in Montreal with the Expos, the Mets landed Gary Carter in a trade prior to the 1985 season. He served as one of the final missing pieces needed for that memorable 1986 championship run.
The backstop earned four of his 11 All-Star Game selections in New York as a member of the Mets. He enjoyed three seasons of 20-plus homers and two of 100-plus RBI, but that initial year in Flushing was obviously his best. It was the only time he slugged at least 30 dingers with 100 RBI in the same season during his 19-year Hall of Fame career.
He always seemed to have a flair for the dramatic, like his walk-off home run on Opening Day in 1985. The rest, as they say, is history.
First Base: John Olerud, 8.1 fWAR in 1998
.354/.447/.551 with 22 Home Runs and 93 RBI
John Olerud spent just three years with the Mets, but he made them count. His .315 career average as a Met is still a franchise record. That .354 mark he posted in 1998? That’s a single-season record, as well.
The first baseman had a healthy .920 OPS heading into the All-Star break, but it’s what he did in the second half that made this season memorable. Over his final 326 trips to the plate, Olerud hit .381/.457/.619 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI.
Second Base: Edgardo Alfonzo, 6.4 fWAR in 2000
.324/.425/.542 with 25 Home Runs and 94 RBI
Fresh off a monster campaign in 1999, which led to him finishing eighth in NL MVP voting, Edgardo Alfonzo went right back to work in 2000. He finished 15th in MVP voting that year, but he also earned his first and only All-Star Game selection in the process.
Fonzie was good in all aspects during the Mets’ World Series run, but he absolutely loved it when relief pitchers entered the game. When facing someone coming in from the bullpen, he slashed .403/.508/.610 in 197 plate appearances.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, 6.8 fWAR in 2022
.270/.339/.449 with 26 Home Runs and 107 RBI
Before the 2022 season, Jose Reyes had been the only Mets shortstop to register a season of at least 5.0 fWAR. He did it five times during his career in New York. Francisco Lindor put himself in a league all by himself by breaking a bunch of franchise shortstop records, though.
The fWAR and RBI records held by Reyes are now his, and the home run record that Asdrubal Cabrera set in 2016 is also Lindor’s. That’s one way to bounce back after a 2021 campaign that fell short of high expectations, isn’t it?
Third Base: David Wright, 8.4 fWAR in 2007
.325/.416/.546 with 30 Home Runs and 107 RBI
Whenever the year 2007 and the word “Mets” are mentioned in the same sentence, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately for David Wright, it was easily his best overall performance as an individual in the big leagues. He added 34 stolen bases to the above numbers to give him his first and only 30-30 campaign.
New York completely tanked down the stretch, but Wright did his best to try and drag his club across the finish line. From August 1st through the end of the year (55 games), the third baseman slashed .372/.474/.628 with 12 homers, 17 doubles, 10 steals, 41 RBI, and 49 runs scored.
Best Mets seasons at each position
Left Field: Bernard Gilkey, 7.6 fWAR in 1996
.317/.393/.562 with 30 Home Runs and 117 RBI
Bernard Gilkey spent about two and a half seasons with the Mets. Nothing came close to his 1996 campaign, though, which was his first in Flushing. Just about everything he did was a single-season career-best mark for him. Those 30 homers marked the only time he hit more than 18 in a year during his MLB career.
The outfielder particularly enjoyed hitting during the middle of games. Between innings four and six, Gilkey slashed .353/.402/.621 with nine homers, 22 doubles, and 33 RBI.
Center Field: Carlos Beltran, 7.8 fWAR in 2006
.275/.388/.594 with 41 Home Runs and 116 RBI
Carlos Beltran can be a bit of a polarizing figure in Mets history (and that’s before he was fired as manager before actually managing a single game). Many remember him striking out to end the 2006 NLCS, but in reality, the Mets wouldn’t have been close to sniffing that moment without him.
His first year in New York disappointed in a big way. He bounced back by tying the then-franchise home run record and placing fourth in NL MVP voting, as well as winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove.
Beltran split those homers quite evenly depending on the situation. He slugged 16 when the Mets were ahead, another 16 when they were behind, and nine in tie games.
Right Field: Darryl Strawberry, 6.5 fWAR in 1990
.277/.361/.518 with 37 Home Runs and 108 RBI
One of the great things about Darryl Strawberry’s Mets tenure is that his on-field production was quite consistent. He never finished with fewer than 26 homers or 74 RBI…both of which he did during his NL Rookie of the Year campaign in 1983.
His 1990 season was the final one in the Big Apple before jetting for Los Angeles in free agency. He finished with a flourish, too. Straw’s output marked the third time he posted at least 37 dingers with 100-plus RBI in a four-year span.
Starting Pitcher: Tom Seaver, 9.1 fWAR in 1971
20-10 record with a 1.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 289 Ks in 286.1 innings
And before you ask, Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young season in 2018 just missed — he posted 9.0 fWAR that year.
This was the second time Tom Seaver recorded at least 20 wins in a three-year span. That ERA and strikeout number both led the league, so he just missed out on the pitching triple crown. He also lost out on the Cy Young Award to Fergie Jenkins. The Franchise won that award three times during his career, though, so it’s all good.
Seaver was already having an outstanding year at the All-Star break, evidenced by his 2.39 ERA. But he turned the jets on down the stretch, twirling a 1.10 ERA over his final 139.1 innings.
Relief Pitcher: Armando Benitez, 3.1 fWAR in 1999
4-3 record with a 1.85 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 22 saves, and 128 Ks in 78 innings
Edwin Diaz’s memorable 2022 campaign just missed knocking off Armando Benitez, as he checked in with 3.0 fWAR. With his new contract, though, he’s got a few more opportunities to try and overtake him for the top spot. Let’s hope he has a shot to do that in 2023.
The 1999 season was Benitez’s first with New York. By looking at his 22 saves for that 97-win squad, you can see that he shared those duties with veteran John Franco. He racked up 19 saves of his own that season.
Benitez produced an ERA above 3.00 in just one month. It was a 3.86 mark in July. He also produced an ERA below 2.00 three times. His best showing in the ERA department was September/October. Over Benitez’s final 14 innings pitched, he produced a 0.64 ERA and 0.64 WHIP with 23 strikeouts.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.