Everyone knows the best seasons in New York Mets history. Dwight Gooden in 1985. Jacob deGrom in 2018. Tom Seaver in 1971. Or 1973. Or 1975. However, not everyone knows who had the best season at each age. Some of the seasons above will be featured in this article, surprisingly, not all of them make the cut.
Obviously, some players have their birthday mid-season, so technically they will play that year at two different ages. However, for these purposes, we will go off of what age Baseball-Reference says the season was played at.
For example, Max Scherzer’s birthday is July 27 — mid-season. That means he will play the 2022 season as both a 37- and 38-year-old. To solve this issue, we turn to Baseball-Reference, which has 2022 as Scherzer’s age-37 season, so that’s what it will be. To go by anything else would be arbitrary.
There are 27 ages on this list, and only nine of them belong to hitters.
It is the Mets we’re talking about after all. This is a pitching franchise, through and through.
Technically, Ed Kranepool had six plate appearances at age-17 and 294 plate appearances at age-18, but in that time he had a combined .545 OPS, so we’re skipping right through and starting at age-19.
19: Dwight Gooden, 1984
Kicking it off is none other than Dr. K, and there really was no contest with this one. Pitching 218 innings over 31 starts, Gooden put up a 2.60 ERA while also leading baseball in FIP (1.69), WHIP (1.073) and strikeouts (276).
He put up a 5.5 bWAR for pitchers, the second-highest for any teenager since in the 20th century. Only Gary Nolan’s 6.3 in 1967 for the Cincinnati Reds beats it out. Not only was Gooden an All-Star, but he finished No. 15 in the NL MVP race, No. 2 in the NL Cy Young race and took home the NL Rookie of the Year award in a landslide. Not only is it clearly the best season by a 19-year-old for the Mets, but it’s one of the greatest seasons by a teenager in all of MLB history.
Honorable Mention: Ed Kranepool, 1964
20: Dwight Gooden, 1985
Surprise, look who’s back! Spoiler alert, he’s the one after this as well. Gooden was amazing his rookie season, but his sophomore campaign is arguably one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has ever had. Let’s start with the base stats. Over 276.2 innings pitched, he led the league with 268 strikeouts, a 1.53 ERA, 2.13 FIP and 229 ERA+. He also went 24-4, if you care about that. People really cared about it then, so it’s worth mentioning.
Now onto what makes this may be the most impressive season by a pitcher in the last 100 years. In MLB history, there have been 23 individual seasons of 13.0 or more bWAR. Twenty-two of those seasons came in 1923 or earlier — then there’s Gooden’s 1985, with his 13.3 (12.2 pitching and 1.1 hitting) sitting at No. 20 all-time. Even of those other 22 seasons, only three of them came in the 20th century, two belonging to Walter Johnson and one to Babe Ruth.
Every other season was in the 1800s. Gooden stands alone at the top of the mountain, owning what might be the best season of modern baseball the game has ever seen.
Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes, 2003
21: Dwight Gooden, 1986
Gooden completes the hat trick to start the list, and while his third season wasn’t quite as amazing as his first two, it was still very good. He threw 250 innings to the tune of a 2.84 ERA, 1.108 FIP and 126 ERA+ with an even 200 punchouts. He made the All-Star team for the third straight year and finished No. 2 in the NL Cy Young voting.
Most importantly though, he helped lead the Mets to the NL Pennant, and eventually the franchise’s second championship. While the Mets only won one of the four games Gooden started in the playoffs, he still was very solid, putting up a 3.46 ERA in 26 innings. His shining moment was throwing 10 innings of one-run ball in Game 5 of the NLCS, keeping the Mets alive until they eventually won it in the 12th. Gooden was great in ‘86. Sure, it wasn’t ‘85 or ‘84, but it was still a great season in its own right.
Honorable Mention: Darryl Strawberry 1983
22: Jon Matlack, 1972
At age-22, there are finally a couple of really good seasons to choose from. That said, Matlack’s 1972 is pretty clearly the best of the bunch. In his first full season, Matlack threw 244 innings with a 2.32 ERA, 1.172 WHIP 145 ERA+ and 169 strikeouts. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award with ease, becoming the second Met ever to get the honor. The first? A 22-year-old Tom Seaver in 1967.
Seaver is the greatest pitcher to ever put on a Mets uniform, but he’s the runner up for age-22 on this list. It was close, but Matlack has him beat by about a third of a run in ERA and about 20 points in ERA+. However, while this will be the last time Matlack appears, Seaver wins three coming up, including the very next one.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Seaver 1967, David Wright 2005
23: Tom Seaver, 1968
The Franchise makes his first appearance on this list, and while this is far from one of Seaver’s more memorable seasons, it was undoubtedly still a great one. Pitching 278 innings, he put up a 2.20 ERA, 0.978 WHIP, 137 ERA+ and 205 strikeouts.
He made his second of what would be 12 All-Star games, but unlike most years from the first half of Seaver’s career, that was the end of the accolades — it was the Year of the Pitcher after all. Bob Gibson won the NL Cy Young award with ease in his famous 1.12 ERA season, but there were also six other pitchers who had an ERA under two. Seaver was great, but he actually didn’t even have the best ERA on the Mets that year, Jerry Koosman did (we’ll get to him in a bit). Still, for a 22-year-old in Mets history, Seaver and his 2.20 ERA is the clear choice for the top spot.
Honorable Mentions: Edgardo Alfonzo 1997, Jose Reyes 2006, Noah Syndergaard 2016
24: David Wright, 2007
A hitter! Finally! Wright had already had a couple of really good seasons before 2007, but this is pretty clearly the best one of his career. He hit .325/.416/.546 over 160 games, but most notably he joined the 30-30 club, hitting 30 long balls and stealing 34 bases. He became just the third Met in history to do it, joining Daryll Strawberry and Howard Johnson (who did it three times).
Wright finished No. 4 in NL MVP voting, though he arguably should have finished higher. His 8.3 bWAR is not only the most by any position player in Mets history, but it was higher than all three of the players who finished ahead of him. He beat Jimmy Rollins, who won the award, by a full 2.1 bWAR. Wright made the All-Star game and won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for third base, something he would do again in 2008. This is the only time Wright will appear as a winner, but as already seen, he’ll pop up some more in the honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Jon Matlack 1974, Tom Seaver 1969, Pete Alonso 2019