Friday, January 25, 2013
Top 5s: Best Mets teams
By Mark Simon
Focus on Spot/Getty Images
We'll take the 1986 Mets above all others.
The last of this series of articles done in tandem with Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider stories ranking top 10s in baseball history involves picking the best teams in Mets history.
I’m going to handle this one a little differently than the other stories in that I’m only going to look at two teams, then provide the rest of the list in that box on the right.
The discussion about the best Mets team actually comes down to a rather simple debate for the top spot:
Does it go to the 1969 Mets or the 1986 Mets?
Here’s my pick:
1. 1986 -- What won out for me in comparing the top two Mets teams of all-time was that the 1986 team overwhelms the 1969 squad in terms of offensive output AND also features one of the very best pitching staffs their management has ever assembled.
The 1986 Mets were able to put out a lineup that featured the most potent 3-4-5 combo (Keith Hernandez/Gary Carter/Darryl Strawberry) in the league, and almost always featured at least seven above-average offensive players.
Their part-timers, such as Kevin Mitchell, Howard Johnson, and ace pinch-hitter Danny Heep, were better than most other team’s regulars.
The stat that best illustrates what I’m referring to is OPS+, which combines on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and adjusts it for your primary home ballpark and the era played. An OPS+ of 100 is average. The higher above 100, the better.
The 1986 Mets had 10 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 110 or better.
No other team in major-league history can match that.
Likewise, the pitching staff excelled from from top to bottom, with three of the league’s top six starting pitchers in Bob Ojeda, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling and All-Star Sid Fernandez in the No. 4 spot. That top three all had 30 starts and an ERA+ (similar to OPS+ except for ERA) of 125 or better. No group had done that in 25 years (the 1961 Tigers).
Like the 1969 team, the Mets had two pitchers who could ably close games: Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell. They were only the second team to have a pair of 20-save pitchers since the save rule was enacted in 1969.
Any way you slice it, we can come up with a stat that shows how this team wasn’t just great, it was dominant.
And we can’t do that for any other Mets team.
2. 1969 -- There’s no shame in this team’s being second-best and we don’t begrudge anyone who wants to give this Mets team bonus props for its improbable turnaround after its first seven seasons of struggle.
The 1969 Mets may have been a miracle team, but they had some pretty good baseball players. They had the best 1-2 pitching combo in Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and put the best defensive team behind them that the franchise has ever had. Behind the plate was Jerry Grote, and in the infield were Ken Boswell and Bud Harrelson, and in the outfield were Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones.
If you’ve ever listened to the highlight album from that season, what stands out about this team was how players raised their games to help the team win. Case in point would be someone such as Al Weis, who hit .215 that season, but made a memorable defensive play to save a regular-season win and was 5-for-11 with a home run in the World Series.
While the 1986 Mets were a team that ran into its fair share of trouble, the '69 bunch was one in which the good guys won.
Of the 51 teams that Mets fans have rooted for, this may not have been the best, but it definitely was the best story.