Starting pitching was a huge part of the New York Mets’ success in 2000. Although the overall team wasn’t as good as the 1999 squad, it was those starters who pulled them over the hump.
I think it’s fair to say the 1999 New York Mets were a better team than the 2000 club. By record alone, the 1999 squad won 97 games compared to the 94 victories amassed by the team a year later in 2000.
Regular season wins don’t always measure a team’s status in history. In 1999, the Mets ran into the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS thus losing their opportunity to play in the World Series.
One year later, they managed to avoid Atlanta and steamroll past the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals on their way to the finals. A big reason for it was the starting pitching.
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The 1999 Mets were all about offense. Five regulars hit over .300 for the year and if we add in Darryl Hamilton with his 189 plate appearances, we get six.
The team was driven by their ability to score runs. Three players hit over 25 home runs and each finished the year with 100+ RBI. Then there’s the fact that Rickey Henderson and Roger Cedeno stole 37 and 66 bases respectively to add to what we can call one of the best offenses in team history.
Still, it wasn’t enough to get them through the playoffs and bring a parade to Flushing.
In 2000, many of the same offensive weapons returned. Mike Piazza was still there in the middle of the order swatting home runs and leading them. However, with some players taking a step back, it was up to the pitching to pick up the pieces.
The 1999 Mets had six starters make 12 or more starts and the lowest ERA belonged to Kenny Rogers who was acquired at the trade deadline. At just 4.03, he was an outlier in a pitching staff where guys needed run support.
Things were much different in 2000. Three pitchers had lower ERAs than what Rogers posted in 1999. Al Leiter dropped his number from 4.23 to 3.20. He saw the positive effects of those, going from 13-12 to 16-8 on the year.
Glendon Rusch also had an unexpectedly good year on the mound. Although he was just 11-11, his 4.01 ERA would have been the best on the staff one year prior.
Of course, the biggest change was the addition of Mike Hampton. A year after dominating with the Houston Astros, Hampton made his way to New York for one season via trade. He made the most of it with a 15-10 record and 3.14 ERA.
As I did in previous coverage of the 2000 Mets, it’s also worth repeating a hat tip to Rick Reed and Bobby Jones. Reed went 11-5 in 30 starts with a 4.11 ERA. Jones was 11-6 with a less stellar 5.06 ERA for the year.
An area where the Mets pitching staff wasn’t so spectacular in 2000 compared to 1999 was the bullpen. The 1999 relief corps was far superior even if some of the same players returned.
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At least in this instance, it seems the starting pitching staff is what made the biggest difference of all. This can be especially true in the postseason when each inning matters an exponential amount more.