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The Best Seasons I Know: Splitting Things Up (hitters)

If you’re reading this, you probably know that I like the esoterica of Mets history, that I get just as much enjoyment out of trying to find the best sacrifice flies as I do looking at the club’s 100 greatest home runs.

I was thinking about this the other day - what if we looked at best seasons by players in Mets history in a different way? 

What if we split them up into pieces and looked at the best Met for each split? It’s kind of a “Yes and …” improv approach to the “best season” question, if that makes sense.

Thankfully, Baseball-Reference allows us to do that.

So if you wanted to know things like who was the best Mets hitter in extra innings or in 2-strike situations, you came to the right place. I promise you’ll learn something new here.

I should note that these are my picks from eyeballing the numbers. I used sOPS+ as a guide, meaning how a hitter’s OPS compared to the league OPS in that particular split, but did not strictly use that.

We’ll start with hitters and do pitchers in another article.

What’s the best home season in Mets history?

If we go strictly by the OPS+ for this split, Cleon Jones in 1969 comes out on top. Jones hit .379/.458/.570 in the year after The Year of the Pitcher.

A 1.028 OPS in that era was something pretty special and a little more impressive than the 1.078 OPS that J.D. Davis posted at Citi Field in 2019 (.354/.413/.665).

Surprise contender: Ed Charles hit .331/.378/.525 with 10 home runs at Shea Stadium in 1968, a year in which offensive numbers were completely deflated. I’m thinking this might actually be a better accomplishment than what Jones did the following year.

What’s the best road season in Mets history?

Yes, Mike Piazza had some ultra-dramatic moments at Shea Stadium, but he was more of a collective terror on the road. Piazza’s 2000 is collectively ridiculous – he hit .377/.459/.701 with 21 home runs and 60 RBI in 63 games, an OPS+ of 199. Piazza has arguably the second-best road season too – he hit .383/.441/.650 in 1998.

Surprise contender: How about Mookie Wilson with a 167 in 1988 for a .332/.393/.523 road effort?

If we lower the qualifier enough, we can also get Jeromy Burnitz’s 2003 in there. He hit .328/.386/750 with 14 home runs in 116 road at-bats.

What’s the best season by a Met with runners in scoring position?

Five Mets hitters recorded a 200 or better OPS+ for one season with runners in scoring position and it’s the most random group you could imagine.

If we go strictly off OPS+, the answer is Darryl Strawberry in 1985 (.337/.488/.685), but that’s helped by 13 intentional walks.

I like splitting it between the next two hitters – Tim Teufel in 1987 and John Milner in 1976. Teufel was a little better overall (.368/.461/.726) but Milner did his (.360/.457/.632) in a year that wasn’t as hitter friendly.

Surprise contender: The other 2 hitters with a 200 or better OPS+ were Steve Henderson after the Seaver trade in 1977 (.370/.446/.696) and Lucas Duda in 2014 (.301/.441/.659), though he was helped by 8 intentional walks.

What’s the best season by a Met in high-leverage situations?

This pleased me. Edgardo Alfonzo was just coming into his own in 1997. And if it seemed like he got a lot of big hits, it’s because he did. He hit .439/.513/.663 in high-leverage situations.

No Mets player has topped his OPS (1.176) or OPS+ (209). Keith Hernandez’s 1985 comes closest (.422/.486/.603).

Surprise contender: We know Ron Swoboda now for his clutch defense in the 1969 World Series. But he was a great hitter in key spots in the 1969 regular season, hitting .355 with a .435 OBP and .602. slugging percentage in 93 at-bats.

Funny thing: He hit .188 in low and medium-leverage situations that year.

What’s the best calendar month in Mets history?

Alright, there’s a lot to unpack here, so we’ll just list it out.

Best March/April: Darryl Strawberry in 1988 (.361/.460/.681 with 6 home runs in 72 at-bats). Jeff Kent’s 1994 was better overall (.375/.421/.739) but he did it in a more hitter-friendly environment.

Best May: Todd Hundley in 1997 (.347/.485/.693 with 6 HR and 20 RBI in 23 games.

Best June: Darryl Strawberry in 1990 (.376/.477/.731 with 10 HR and 27 RBI in 26 games).

Best July: we could take Mike Piazza’s 2001 (.397/.506/.762) but it’s more fun to split it between Lee Mazzilli’s 1980 (.359/.409/.726 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI in 28 games) and Fernando Tatis’ 2008 (.397/.463/.767 in 73 at-bats) just because that’s an unlikely bond.

Best August: David Wright’s 2007 (.394/.516/.657 with 21 RBI in 28 games). Wright’s 2005 (.378/.470/633) was also a contender.

Best September/October: I’m glad this turned out to be someone who did it in a pennant race rather than garbage time.

John Olerud in 1998 (.413/.526/.640) and Mike Piazza’s 1998 goes right there with it (.378/.457/.720). Olerud scores a touch higher in the split’s OPS+ (presumably because of the OBP edge) but they both warrant the mention. And we could add in Gary Carter (.320 BA, 1.051 OPS, 13 HR, 36 RBI in 32 games) and Keith Hernandez in 1985 (.395/.457/.524) with it.

Surprise contenders:

Ed Kranepool (1965)
.418 BA, 13 RBI in 14 G
Mike Cameron (2005)
.372 BA, 1.162 OPS
Wayne Garrett (1970)
.576 OBP, 21 H, 16 BB, 15 G
Brian McRae (1998)
.333 BA, 1.037 OPS, 6 HR
Joe Christopher (1964)
.369 BA, 1.029 OPS, 38 H
Mike Jacobs (2005)
1.027 OPS, 7 HR, 71 AB

What’s the best season by a Met against left-handed pitching?

David Wright owns the top 3 seasons by a Mets hitter against left-handed pitching, with his 2008 being best of the best (.382/.497/.682). Honorable mention to Wilmer Flores’ 2016 (.340/.383/.710).

I could have gone with Piazza’s 2000 (.354/.427/.848 with 11 home runs in 79 at-bats) but I felt that Wright nearly doubling Piazza’s at-bat total warranted the pick.

Surprise contender: Ray Knight’s bounceback 1986 was the product of his .379/.408/.601 line vs left-handed pitching (including a memorable walk-off home run against the Astros that July.

What’s the best season by a Met against right-handed pitching?

Darryl Strawberry has 4 of the top 6 spots in the OPS+ list with the No. 1 one being his 1987. Strawberry hit .311/.446/.632 against right-handed pitching that season. His 1.078 OPS is a club record.

Surprise contender: Would you believe that in a smaller sample that Willie Mays post-trade in 1972 was amazin’ against right-handed pitching?

He hit .333/.462/.583 with 6 home runs in 96 at-bats. Not bad for a 41-year-old.

What’s the best season by a Met in 2-strike situations?

Caveat here in that the data on Baseball-Reference dates to 1988 and for some seasons it might be incomplete. But the answer here seems valid. In 1990, Dave Magadan hit .315/.405/.401 in two-strike counts (62 hits).

That passes the smell test from my childhood, as I remember Magadan being a great contact hitter. Others had more power (much more, Magadan had no home runs) but no one was better at getting on-base. The only player close was Edgardo Alfonzo in 2000 (.297/.396/.449 in a hitter-friendly time).

Surprise contender: Josh Satin (.261/.368/.409 in 2013) is the unlikeliest name bunched in with the likes of Kevin McReynolds, Jeff McNeil and Justin Turner’s 2012 (sigh).

What is the best season by a Met in the first inning?

I didn't want to put someone here who had previously been listed, but Darryl Strawberry's 1987 forced my hand. His .354 batting average, .506 on-base percentage and .985 slugging percentage with 12 home runs in 65 at-bats dwarves any Mets player before or since.

Surprise contender: The Mets were abysmal in 1979, though you wouldn't know it from how Joel Youngblood did in the opening inning. He reached base 37 times in 77 plate appearances (.481 OBP). The problem the Mets had was they didn't have many guys who could drive him in.

What’s the best season by a Met in extra innings?
Let’s close it out with this one. Because the sample size is so small, there are a lot of ways to choose.

But we’ll go with Tommie Agee in 1972, who was 6-for-8 with two home runs, a double, two unintentional walks, and two intentional walks. His slashline is a ridonculous .750/.833/1.625 (2.458 OPS).

Agee had two-game winning home runs and had two other instances in which his hit resulted in him scoring the winning run later that inning. One of the hits was against future Mets pitching coach Phil Regan(!). The other came in the 18th inning of a win over the Phillies (in the first game of a doubleheader!).

Surprise contender: Many of us know Ken Singleton best as either a former Orioles star or a broadcaster for the Yankees, but in 1971 he got a shot with the Mets and made the most of his extra-innings chances. He was 7-for-13 with a home run, 5 RBI and 4 walks.


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