25: Jerry Koosman, 1968
The second appearance on this list from the Year of the Pitcher, Koosman was actually objectively better than Seaver in ‘68. Pitching to a 2.08 ERA, 1.1 WHIP and 145 ERA+ with 178 strikeouts in 263.2 innings pitched, he put up a season that would have been worthy of the Cy Young Award in most other years. Just like Seaver though, he had Gibson to contend with.
This was also Koosman’s first full season in the league. He finished No. 2 in the NL Rookie of the Year race, losing to a little-known catcher from Cincinnati by the name of Johnny Bench. It was an incredibly tight race, with Bench bringing home 10.5 vote points to Koosman’s 9.5. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Koosman should have won, as his 2.08 ERA is definitely more impressive than Bench’s .743 OPS. Koosman also finished tied for No. 13 in the NL MVP race, while Bench finished No. 16. Regardless, there are worse people to lose to than Bench. Koosman is a Mets legend, and his rookie season was one for the record books.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Seaver 1970, Darryl Strawberry 1987, David Cone 1988, David Wright 2008
26: Tom Seaver, 1971
Seaver’s second appearance on this list just might be the best season of his career. In his fifth full season, he threw 286.1 innings, struck out 289 batters and put up an MLB leading 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 1.93 FIP and 194 ERA+. His 289 strikeouts remain a Mets single-season record, as do his 21 complete games.
Seaver arguably should have won the NL Cy Young award that year, especially considering all the categories he led the league in. Instead, the award went to Fergie Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs. Jenkins had a really good year, putting up a 2.77 ERA over 325 innings — but frankly, it just didn’t compare to Seaver’s. However, Jenkins did have a league-leading 24 wins, while Seaver had a mere 20. In 1971, that mattered a lot more than it does now, 50 years later. At the end of the day though, that doesn’t take away from the terrific season Tom had. Two years later, he’d once again lead baseball in ERA, WHIP and ERA+, and this time, he’d get the recognition he deserved. That’s coming up, but we’re not there yet.
Honorable Mentions: Cleon Jones 1969, Jerry Koosman 1969, Darryl Strawberry 1988, Edgardo Alfonzo 2000
27: Todd Hundley, 1996
Age-27 was one of the more difficult ones to pick, seeing as there wasn’t a no-brainer, standout season of the bunch like there was for many of the previous ages. Seaver and Jacob deGrom were both very good, but it was far from their best seasons (which is really saying something). Wright had a solid year but nothing special, Strawberry had probably his worst season as a Met and players like Mike Piazza, Keith Hernandez and Carlos Beltran had yet to don the orange and blue.
So, we land on Hundley. In 153 games — the only time in his career he played more than 85% of the games in a season — Hundley hit .259/.356/.550. His .906 OPS was solid, especially for a catcher, but what really puts his 1996 season on the map is that he hit 41 home runs. There have only been three seasons in MLB history where a catcher has hit more home runs: Javy Lopez in 2003 (43), Johnny Bench in 1970 (45) and Salvador Perez in 2021 (48). Even of those three, only Lopez has more strictly from the catcher position. Bench hit seven of his spread across various other positions, and Perez hit 15 as a DH. Hundley’s season is impressive on its own, but it’s even more impressive for a catcher. For that, it takes home the crown for age-27.
Honorable Mentions: Tommie Agee 1970, Craig Swan 1978, Jeff McNeil 2019
28: Tom Seaver, 1973
Time to complete the hat trick. While the Seaver’s best season may have come two years earlier, it was far from his only dominant one. In 290 innings, he once again led MLB in ERA (2.08), WHIP (0.976) and ERA+ (175), while also leading the National League in strikeouts (251), complete games (18) and FIP (251). Seaver took home the NL Cy Young award and finished No. 8 in NL MVP voting. It was the second of three Cy Youngs that he won in his career, but due to a certain Met who wears No. 48, it’ll be the last time Seaver appears on this list.
Seaver headlined a three-headed monster of a pitching staff, that along with Koosman and Matlack, helped power the Mets to the best record in the National League East. Behind Seaver and the pitching, the Mets then knocked off the Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, a team that won a whopping 17 more games than the Mets did in the regular season to win the National League West. Ultimately the ‘73 Mets would fall to the Oakland A’s in the World Series, but it was still an incredible campaign from Seaver.
Honorable Mentions: Howard Johnson 1989, Darryl Strawberry 1990, Jose Reyes 2011
29: Carlos Beltran, 2006
While age-27 was hard to choose because of a lack of any clear standout seasons, age-29 is equally hard for the exact opposite reason. There are almost too many truly great seasons to choose from. They’ll get listed in the honorable mentions as usual, but one season deserves a special shoutout because it’s truly a shame to leave it off the list. John Olerud in 1998 was amazing. He hit .354 (!!) and had an on-base percentage of .447, both of which remain Mets single-season records to this day.
Beltran just happened to be a little bit better overall in a season that mattered more. In his second full season in Queens, Beltran broke out in a way he failed to do in his first year. In 140 games, he hit .275/.388/.594 with 41 home runs and 116 RBI. Beltran was an All-Star, finished No. 4 in the NL MVP race and took home both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for center field. While Olerud’s ‘98 Mets finished 88-74 and out of the playoffs, Beltran’s ‘06 Mets won the NL East at 97-65. Beltran was really good in the playoffs too, especially in the NLCS … it’s just unfortunate how it ended for him.
Still, getting locked up by an Adam Wainwright curveball doesn’t erase the great season he had, and his great season doesn’t take away from Olerud’s in ‘98. They were both phenomenal, and either one of them could have gotten the nod here.
Honorable Mentions: Bernard Gilkey 1996, John Olerud 1998, Johan Santana 2008, David Wright 2012