30: Jacob deGrom, 2018
We’ve made it to deGrom. Everyone knew it was coming, and there really is no other season that can make a legitimate case here. deGrom’s 2018 was one for the record books. While the Mets as a whole were a bad team that usually was not much fun to watch, that was not the case every fifth day. That was deGrom day, and deGrom day was (and still is) must-see tv. Over 217 innings, deGrom put up an MLB best 1.70 ERA and 218 ERA+, both of which are second only to Gooden’s ‘85 when it comes to single-season marks in Mets history.
He ran away with the NL Cy Young award, picking up 29 of the 30 first-place votes. The one voter who didn’t vote for him, and instead voted for future Met Max Scherzer, did so on the basis of pitching wins. deGrom set history in ‘18 by winning the Cy Young with just 10 wins, the fewest of any starting pitcher to win the award in a full season. He also probably should have won the NL MVP, or at the very least there’s no way he should have finished fifth as he did.
deGrom had a bWAR of 10.4, which was a full 3.1 more than Christian Yelich, who won. Yes, Yelich had a great season (7.3 bWAR and 1.000 OPS), but deGrom had a historic one. A 1.000 OPS is very impressive, but there have been 116 individual qualified seasons with an OPS of 1.000 or more since 2000. In that same timeframe, there have been just 11 individual qualified seasons with an ERA below 2.00. deGrom’s 2018 was one of them.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Seaver 1975, Frank Viola 1990, Howard Johnson 1991, Mike Piazza 1999
31: Jacob deGrom, 2019
deGrom’s follow-up season wasn’t quite as historic, but it was still plenty dominant. Over 204 innings pitched, he put up a 2.43 ERA, 169 ERA+ and an NL leading 255 strikeouts. Once again, he took home the NL Cy Young award with 29 of the 30 possible first-place votes, but at least this time it was more understandable. Hyun-Jin Ryu actually had the slight edge over deGrom in both ERA and ERA+, but deGrom had a massive lead in bWAR.
deGrom’s second Cy Young put him in an elite club, joining Seaver as the only Mets pitcher to win the award twice. He also became the only Met to do so in back-to-back years, making himself one of just 11 players to win consecutive Cy Young Awards in MLB history. deGrom is on the Hall-of-Fame track, and to be perfectly honest, he’s probably already done enough to earn a plaque in Cooperstown. Since 2014, when deGrom entered the league, there is only one starting pitcher who has had a better ERA and ERA+ than him, and that is Clayton Kershaw, a no-doubt first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. That’s deGrom’s company, an all-time great — because he’s one as well.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Seaver 1976, Gary Carter 1985, Mike Piazza 2000
32: Keith Hernandez, 1986
This was a tricky age to pick. While Hernandez maybe didn’t quite have the statistically best season of the candidates, the accolades he picked up in the ‘86 season, both personal and team, gave him the edge. That said he was still really good, hitting .310/.413/.446 with 13 home runs, 34 doubles and an NL leading 94 walks. He was an All-Star, finished No. 4 in the NL MVP race and picked up Gold Glove No. 9 for his career.
Of course, Hernandez was also instrumental in the Mets’ World Series run, one that has since been turned into an ESPN 30-for-30. He didn’t hit overly well in those games, but he played every single inning for the Mets at first base. He picked up at least one hit in 10 out of the 13 games and drove in three runs in Game 7 of the World Series, a game they would go on to win 8-5. While Al Leiter’s 1998 season got some serious consideration, Hernandez’s strong play and importance to the World Series-winning ‘86 team earned him the nod.
Honorable Mentions: Lance Johnson 1996, Al Leiter 1998, Mike Piazza 2001
33: Pedro Martinez, 2005
Pedro’s career with the Mets was relatively short-lived and inconsistent, but he started it with a bang. After stealing him away from the Boston Red Sox by giving him a 4-year, $53 million deal, the Hall-of-Fame bound pitcher had a really nice first year in Queens. In 217 innings pitched, he put up a 2.82 ERA, 2.95 FIP and 146 ERA+. He also had a 0.949 WHIP, which was the best in baseball.
He made the first of two All-Star games as a Met and formed a nice veteran duo with Tom Glavine at the top of the rotation. After that, his career with the Mets took a noticeable downward turn. Over the next three seasons, Martinez threw just 269.2 innings to the tune of a 4.74 ERA and 91 ERA+. Nevertheless, for that one season, he was as advertised — an ace that the Mets could rely on every fifth day to give them an outing worthy of a No. 1 starter.
Honorable Mentions: Jerry Koosman 1976, Mike Piazza 2002, Jacob deGrom 2021 (yes he was that good in just half of a season)
34: Carlos Delgado 2006
Before the 2005 season, Delgado signed a 4-year, $52 million contract with the Marlins after reportedly turning down a similar deal from the Mets. However, thanks to one of Florida’s infamous fire sales (yes, it was still the Florida Marlins then), he found himself in Flushing less than a calendar year later. He made an immediate impact, hitting .265/.361/.548 with 38 home runs which was second-most on the Mets, only trailing the other Carlos — Beltran. He drove in 114 runs, just two fewer than both Beltran and Wright, and put up a 131 OPS, also only behind those two.
Delgado was a massive upgrade at first base that the Mets desperately needed after getting a combined .693 OPS out of the position in 2005. He provided a thump in the middle of the order and helped power the Mets nearly all the way to the World Series. He was on fire in the postseason too, the first and last time he made it. In 10 games, Delgado went 13-37 at the plate with four homers, three doubles and 11 RBI, good for a 1.199 OPS. Unfortunately, the Mets came up short — but it wasn’t for Delgado’s lack of trying.
Honorable Mentions: Al Leiter 2000, Todd Zeile 2000, Curtis Granderson 2015