The virtual 1968 New York Mets take a huge leap forward with plenty of honors including five All-Stars and an MVP winner.
The first decade of the virtual New York Mets is nearing its end. So far, there hasn’t been much winning to speak of.
Virtual history, I suppose, imitates real-life.
With the 1968 season, hopes are much higher than they have been in the past. Tom Seaver is on the verge of becoming one of the best in the league. Bud Harrelson will look to grow on his franchise-setting season by topping his 4.8 WAR set in 1967.
Before we move on with the 1968 season, let’s quickly recap the standings from the past few years:
The Mets successfully put 100-loss campaigns in the past. Can they begin a new streak, possibly even reaching 70 wins?
The 1968 Mets arrive at camp ready to grow further. They finally have some stable pitching and a starting lineup with some more credible bats.
The virtual experts believe in these Gil Hodges-led Mets. In the preseason, they are predicted to finish the season 78-84. This would be a huge boost to fan morale and the hopes of the players who have yet to experience a winning season.
To no one’s surprise, Seaver is expected to be a Cy Young contender with a projected 19-10 record and 2.00 ERA. In a year that fortune-tellers predict will become known as “The Year of the Pitcher,” it would be a great honor for this young righty.
Spring training standings didn’t do much to build further confidence. At just 12-18, the Mets ended the preseason like they did many times before—on the short end of the standings. We’ll need to hope any rust or lack of chemistry stays in Florida if this is the year when they finally begin to piece things together correctly.
Regular Season Notes
The year couldn’t have begun better for the virtual 1968 Mets. A three-game winning streak kicked off the season. They did fall back to earth quickly, dropping the next three in a row, falling to .500.
Still, it’s a pace they’re unfamiliar with over the haul of a full season.
The first half included more winning than the Mets are used to. Shocking the ghosts of Mets seasons past, the club went to the All-Star Break with a 38-44 record. They concluded a nearly .500 first half with less than a week’s worth of wins than they had in all of 1963 and 1964.
There are a few players who deserve credit. Cleon Jones finished with the highest batting average on the club at .296. The club’s second-best league OBP at a still rather low .294 also deserves a tip of the cap.
More than anything else, it’s the pitching that we need to thank for staying competitive. Seaver finished the first-half 10-8 with a 1.83 ERA. Jerry Koosman is having an equally impressive start to the year with a 7-8 record and 1.97 ERA.
Plenty of Mets were honored midseason at the All-Star Game, capping off a productive start to the 1968 campaign.
Following the All-Star Break, the Mets returned to action hopeful to remain competitive. Although they were the first eliminated from playoff contention, they managed to hang with the rest of the league throughout the final months.
The Mets ultimately ended the year with a 74-88 record back in last place where they often are. It wasn’t all bad, though. They did end the year with five straight wins included three against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Seaver had the first major award of the season with Pitcher of the Month honors in June. It was the first time in this virtual world any Mets pitcher took home the honors. It wouldn’t be his last either.
Bigger than Seaver’s one-month achievement is how many players the Mets sent to the All-Star Game. Beginning with shortstop Bud Harrelson who was voted into the game as a starter, the club also sent second baseman Ken Boswell as a reserve. In a pitching-heavy season, his .268 batting average and 2.2 WAR is among the best at the position in the league.
This isn’t the end of the 1968 Mets All-Stars. Three pitchers also got to go. Seaver with his tremendous first-half got to go as did Koosman.
One surprising entrant is pitcher Jim McAndrew. At 6-3 with a 1.80 ERA across 95 innings shared as a starter and reliever, he’s one of those pitchers greatly benefitting from the high mound.
McAndrew made the best use of his first All-Star appearance. Thanks to some timing, he earned the victory in the game. Koosman also appeared, tossing a shutout inning. Seaver, a little less rested, watched the National League win from the sidelines.
As for the two position players, Harrelson led off the game with a single but didn’t do much else. Boswell went hitless, drawing a walk in one of his plate appearances.
The big honors came when the voting took place after the World Series ended. It didn’t shock me much to see Seaver take home the Cy Young Award. He was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the league.
Seaver topped that achievement by also taking home the MVP. Apparently, voters didn’t care about where the team finished in the standings. Perhaps they viewed it as an even bigger achievement because he didn’t have the most spectacular team around him.
Well done, Tom Terrific.
Notable Individual Statistics
The Mets had the fewest home runs in the National League, but they also had the third-best hitter in average. Jones continued to consistently hit throughout the year, finishing with a .310 batting average. Only Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente had better averages than the Flushing center fielder.
The club relied heavily on platooning players so many others didn’t have the chance to pad their statistics. Because it worked well in the standings, we can expect more of this in the future.
Needless to say, the best statistics for this club came from the mound. This was 1968 after all. Pitchers dominated in both leagues.
Seaver had the best numbers with a 19-15 record. The win total and his 1.76 ERA were both third. His 266 strikeouts tied Fergie Jenkins for number one. In WAR, his 11.3 led all of Major League Baseball. Is there any question why he was the NL MVP?
Koosman also had a notable year with a 15-15 record and 2.42 ERA. The Mets got nice performances out of McAndrew and Don Cardwell as well. McAndrew completed his All-Star season 11-9 with a 2.24 ERA. Cardwell ended the year hot with a 10-13 record and 2.39 ERA.
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These four have a chance to do something really special for this organization. We move onto 1969 when we’ll all cross our fingers to see some virtual déjà vu.