Did you know that in 1985, Dwight Gooden had a season where he was worth 12.2 WAR? It remains to this date the most in a single season in New York Mets history.
WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement, essentially measures how good a player is by determining how many more wins they are worth than a replacement-level player at his position.
Baseball-Reference defines a 5.0-plus WAR season as All-Star quality, and in Mets history, there have been just 68 such seasons.
A lot of those seasons come from the franchise greats like Tom Seaver, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Darryl Strawberry, and Edgardo Alfonzo, just to name a few. Others come from players who had great careers but aren’t remembered as Mets. Pedro Martinez, Bret Saberhagen, and John Olerud are some of the ones who fit into that category.
Then, there’s my personal favorite group — the players who had one, and just one season only, where they played so far above their career averages that they etched their names into the history books next to the likes of Seaver, deGrom, Wright and the others.
So, with an honorable mention to Angel Pagan who just missed the cut, here are the three most unexpected 5.0 WAR seasons in a Mets uniform.
In 1978, Craig Swan had perhaps the most out of nowhere 5.0 WAR season in Mets history.
Swan made his major league debut with the Mets in 1973 and pitched in every single year from then to when he retired in 1984. However, he only exceeded his rookie limits in 1975 and didn’t play in double-digit games until 1976. From 1973-77, Swan had a 4.28 ERA, 1.434 WHIP and 82 ERA+ over 348.2 innings pitched — so not a small sample size. Over that time, he was worth minus 0.2 WAR, so he was statistically a detriment.
Then all of a sudden in 1978, Swan figured it out. In the Mets’ first full season without Tom Seaver,
Swan stepped up and did his best to fill the void, pitching to a 2.43 ERA and 143 ERA+, both best in the National League. He threw 207.1 innings, which nowadays would be impressive, but back then was No. 53 in the majors.
Swan and his 5.6 WAR didn’t get any consideration for the NL Cy Young though, likely due to his inning count and his 9-6 record, something that mattered a lot more to the voters than it does now.
He went from being a below-average starter to National League ERA champ in one season. He flirted with hitting the 5.0 WAR mark again the next season but finished with a 4.6, and never got above a 3.0 after that. Still, his stellar 1978 jumpstarted a successful second-half to his Mets career, and while he never really recaptured what he did that season, he was an above-average starter for the Mets for years following it.