Mets starting rotation in 1986 was as ideal as anyone could build
By Tim Boyle
The 1986 New York Mets had possibly the best starting rotation any team could possibly build.
When attempting to build a starting rotation, a front office needs to think employing five men who complement each other. A variety of skills, handedness, and other factors should be taken into account. In 1986, the New York Mets had about as ideal of a rotation as you will find in baseball.
The 1986 Mets featured four 15-game winners. The only regular starter who didn’t, Rick Aguilera, still managed to end the year with 10 victories. If he was used exclusively as a starter, there was a chance to join his rotation buddies.
Led by Bob Ojeda with 18 wins, Dwight Gooden was right behind with 17. Sid Fernandez‘s 16 wins and Ron Darling‘s 15 rounded out the rotation.
Wins, as we witnessed with Jacob deGrom in 2018, aren’t everything. Thankfully for this five-some, they had a lot more than W’s on their table.
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Darling, Gooden, and Ojeda all finished the year with an ERA below 3.00 with the latter leading the way at 2.57. As for Fernandez and Aguilera, they settled for ERAs of 3.52 and 3.88, respectively. This wasn’t bad at all for the back part of the starting staff.
Something I noticed about the rotation is how favorable they could handle the splits. With Fernandez and Ojeda throwing with a left arm, manager Davey Johnson had the option to mix things up from game to game. In the opening and closing game of any series, a team could face righties. For game two, they might have to go up against a difficult southpaw.
Perhaps the best part about this rotation was its age. Gooden, at a fresh 21-years-old, was the baby of the rotation but also the leader in innings pitched. Doc barely seemed like a newcomer, however, with how talented he already was at such a young age. What many may not realize, the whole rotation included guys below 30. Aguilera, Darling, and Fernandez all pitched the year at 25 or younger. Ojeda’s 28 years of age was the highest of any of those men.
At their core, the 1986 Mets weren’t necessarily a young team. While Lenny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry were two younger starters, a large number of regulars were well over 30.
This wasn’t the case with the rotation. These five were very young by baseball standards and not nearly finished with their careers.
Maybe a bit surprising, only Aguilera and Gooden were drafted by the Mets. The other three came via trade. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There are also ways to add young starting pitchers aside from the draft. Making smart, timely trades is probably the best option.
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The 1986 team was exactly what the Mets have tried to build again and again. Young starting pitchers can win a championship. This team proved it.