The 1968 MLB season came to be known as “The Year of the Pitcher.” In both leagues, pitchers dominated the game. Bob Gibson and Denny McLain were the biggest stars. Each won a Cy Young and MVP in their respective leagues. It was a year like no other and the New York Mets were just like everyone else.
A year before they won it all, the 1968 team scored 473 runs in 163 games played. This remains the lowest total by the franchise in any full season. Even the 1994 and 1995 Mets outscored the team in 1968.
Despite the pitching dominance, three Mets players actually managed to have good offensive years for the team. Far from historic, I still felt the need to acknowledge their ability to overcome the challenge of a year when offenses seemed to disappear.
Mets catcher Jerry Grote slashes .282/.357/.349
An All-Star in 1968, Jerry Grote was one of the better hitters on the Mets this season and probably in the entire league. His .282/.357/.349 slash line might be light in the power department (he had 18 doubles and 3 home runs) but it was a decent showing for a catcher more known for his glove.
Oddly enough, Grote would only ever hit for a higher average one other time in his career. In 1975, he batted .295. It’s unexplainable as to why he was able to put together possibly his best offensive season in a year when everyone else’s numbers vanished.
Mets third baseman Ed Charles hit 15 home runs
You might not remember this, but Ed Charles was the team leader in home runs for the Mets in 1968. His 15 long balls beat out the runner-up by a single trip around the bases. He could have surely had more if he was able to make more than 409 trips to the plate.
Charles wasn’t just a home run hitter this year. Coupled with his .276/.328/.434 slash line, Charles put together a decent campaign while the rest of the league and many of his teammates struggled to figure out pitchers.
Mets left fielder Cleon Jones leads the team with a .297 batting average
The 1968 American League batting title went to Carl Yastrzemski with a rather weak .301 batting average. Over in the National League, Cleon Jones led the Mets with a .297 batting average. He was one good weekend away from beating out an entire league.
Jones’ total offense included a .297/.341/.452 slash line, 14 home runs, and 55 RBI. He scored 63 of the team’s runs which comes to a little more than 13% of the team’s total.
The Mets were victimized plenty by opposing pitchers but also got to reap the benefits with their own pitching staff. They had six starters go 12 starts or more and finish the season with an ERA below 3.10. A sign of the times, four of those starters had records below .500.
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It was a season like no other. Against the odds, Grote, Charles, and Jones still managed to provide the pitchers with a few ounces of run support.