In 2014, Juan Lagares and his magic glove had one of the most fun-to-watch 5.0 WAR campaigns ever for the Mets.
There have only been three players in Mets history who have had a season with at least 3.0 dWAR (defensive WAR). Rey Ordóñez has the highest single-season mark with a 4.0 in 1999, and Bud Harrelson had a 3.1 in 1971. The final person is Lagares — twice.
In 2014, Lagares had a 3.1 dWAR, but that actually wasn’t technically his best season. His rookie year, 2013, he had a 3.2 dWAR. The difference between those two seasons? His production at the plate.
Lagares was never a great hitter, but in 2014, he managed to be passable, hitting .281/.321/.382. That was good for an OPS just a hair over .700 and an OPS+ of 102, meaning he was 2% better than the league average hitter that season. In 2013, his OPS was .633 and OPS+ was 80, hitting 20% worse than the league average.
His jump in offensive production, combined with his Gold Glove-winning defense, helped him put up a 5.2 WAR in 2014, which led the Mets by a large margin.
Now, back to his dWAR for a second, because his greatness in center field often isn’t remembered as well as it should be. Everyone knows he was great, but many don’t know how good he really was.
In MLB history, there have been just 171 3.0 dWAR seasons, which is already an absurdly low number when you really think about it. In well over 100 years of Major League Baseball, there have been just 171 instances of a player finishing the year with a dWAR over 3.0.
However, that doesn’t even do Lagares justice. Of those 171 seasons, just 21 of them were done by players who played at least 50% of their games in the outfield. Lagares has two of them. He’s one of only two outfielders to have a dWAR over 3.0 in multiple seasons, with the other being noted defensive superstar Andruw Jones.
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What Lagares did from 2013-14 was something historic, and in one of those years, 2014, he was able to combine it with enough hitting at the plate to put together a truly great season.